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Friday 5: Things To Ponder This Week In Higher Ed 10/30/20

We hope you were able to join us for our Friday 5 Live last week when our student panelists shared their fall semester experiences.  We look forward to November 6 when Dr. Tom Tobin will talk with us about the future of online learning as we kick off National Distance Learning Week.  We are now podcasting Friday 5 Lives so you can more easily share this resource with colleagues! 



The State of Higher Education This Week
COVID continues to dominate the higher education headlines this week.  The University of Wisconsin and the University of Nebraska will not play football this weekend as 12 members of the Wisconsin team have COVID.  The SUNY system announced this week that all of its students will have to test negative for COVID before returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Bethune-Cookman shifted to online learning for the remainder of the semester this week; in the same week the school announced it was canceling all sports for the 2020-2021 year.  Administrators are encouraging residential students to maintain social distancing this Halloween weekend to prevent spread of COVID as infection rates rise across the country.



The New York Times this week reports on continued cuts to budgets in higher education: one estimate totals the cost to colleges caused by the pandemic at $120 billion.  The pandemic accelerated a financial crisis that was fueled by years of cuts to state support, declining enrollments and student concerns with tuition increases.  Institutions have responded to shrinking budgets by “abolishing athletic programs, deferring campus construction and laying off administrative staff and cafeteria workers.”


“We have been in aggressive recession management for 12 years — probably more than 12 years.” Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education



Faculty and advisers this fall semester are reporting higher numbers of students participating in online office hours.  At Florida Atlantic University, students are attending virtual advising appointments in higher than anticipated numbers.  Pre-pandemic, 16% of appointments were missed by students, but that rate has dropped to 8% since the institution shifted to online appointments.  Students value the flexibility of timing as many faculty and advising offices are offering evening office hours.  Expanding online opportunities for students to engage with faculty and support staff will likely be a trend that continues post pandemic.



Several colleges have lowered tuition costs for the fall 2021 semester reports Education Dive this week. Private colleges are the most likely to decrease tuition prices because they can do so without losing much revenue. Seattle Pacific University reduced tuition by 25% and Gordon College did so by 33%.  The goal for many institutions cutting tuition is to incentivize student enrollment for new students and encourage current students to remain at colleges that may be predominantly online for fall 2020.  If institutions remain online for spring, industry experts say tuition cuts may continue.


Follow our Friday 5 Live podcast available now on your favorite podcasting app!


Inside Higher Ed reports this week on survey results indicating that students with disabilities are, “more likely to experience financial hardships, mental health challenges and food and housing insecurity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.” In a survey conducted by the Student Experience in the Research University, or SERU, Consortium, students with disabilities reported feeling less supported by their institutions than students without disabilities.  Students who self-reported disabilities indicated they were two times as likely to have lost their off-campus employment than students without disabilities.  As institutions grapple with supporting students during COVID, such data can help direct response and support programming for at-risk students.
Author: Meg Foster
October 30, 2020
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