On March 6th of last year, the University of Washington became the first major college campus to shut down its operations and send students home. Ten days later, 250 colleges and universities followed suit.
COVID-19 has and will continue to be a factor in how we approach many of the things we will do for years to come, yet this impact on higher education will go beyond school budgets and impact campus life’s very essence: engagement.
COVID-19 is forcing millions of Americans to reassess our interactions and decisions for the past year. Yet, what is not spoken of enough is the importance of adjusting back to normalcy in some sense. I’ve studied at a large university and even took an online class. I respect those who have the patience to sit through an hour-long lecture by a professor; this was not for me and is not for many Americans.
Many college students yearn for the engagement and interaction that college campus life affords them. Whether it is meeting new friends who may end up in your wedding or even your partner for life, college settings offer a window of opportunities for our young people to explore. The impact of how we move from COVID-19’s impact on the higher education system is pivotal.
When college students descend upon their college campuses, will they be faced with an endless list of cautions and hazards of what they cannot do? One of the core tenets of learning and even adulthood is gleaning from their collegiate experience. You don’t just learn from a book but your experience and interactions. Anyone who tells you differently is either lying to you or ignorant.
Colleges and Universities across the country are being encouraged to reevaluate their priorities which have been unsettling for those it has most directly impacted; students, extracurricular activities, and discretionary spending.
As many institutions will see a decrease in their budgets due to a direct lack of many businesses shut down and unable to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, many states will receive less tax from companies, thus contributing fewer appropriations to their universities and colleges. Not all universities and colleges are made equal. Some need the money; some don’t.
Colleges and Universities will need to become creative and consider that they charge for the price of admission; students will expect an outstanding education that allows them to meet new people, engage with their peers, and do it all safely. There is no correct answer for tackling this head-on, but the wrong answer is not doing anything.
People learn in different ways. Some learn by being exposed to new concepts right in front of them, some by engagement and interaction, and some on their own. Whatever it is, colleges and universities must uphold the integrity of learning and give their students the option to choose what works best for them and their learning style. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has shown how resilient we can be as a society and a country if we work together. Let’s not lose this. Our future generations depend on it.