I hope you appreciated part one of this blog post, How Covid-19 Has Impacted Higher Education. This post seeks to provide solutions on how higher education institutions can adapt and thrive.
Part of the reality of this pandemic is that the situation is fluid. At the time of this writing, China has ordered 51 million people into lockdown as COVID-19 surges there. The CDC has reported an uptick of the novel coronavirus in wastewater samples across the U.S. The calculus changes every day, and the threat of continuing surges is real. While we cannot fully know or eliminate the risks we might face in the future, we can adapt in order to overcome some of their challenges.
As the pandemic continues to evolve, many students are choosing to take a gap year, attend college part-time, or stay closer to home. To combat the threat of declining enrollment, we recommend that colleges and universities do the following:
- Offer permanent distance learning options. During the pandemic, many employees found that they preferred working from home as opposed to going into an office every day. Similarly, many college students and faculty found that they preferred to learn and teach from home as well. Organizations should invest in the technology and training necessary to make online and hybrid-learning models a permanent part of their course offerings for those who prefer them.
- Start early to build long-term trust. Creating long-term trust can only be done by recognizing the uniqueness of each individual’s situation. Universities can offer personalized resources which may focus on mental health, financial need, family situation or any other specific barrier to entry.
- Commit to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Institutions of higher learning will do a great disservice to themselves and to society as a whole if they don’t actively work to bring back the marginalized students who dropped out or failed to enroll during the pandemic. Recruitment resources need to focus on disadvantaged schools in low-income districts and find ways to bring these students back into the fold.
- Refine tuition pricing models. Regarding the financial loss associated with post-pandemic higher education, we recommend that colleges and universities reevaluate their financial goals and strategies. For example, in such unprecedented times, they might consider widening their acceptance margins. As mentioned above, colleges and universities can adopt an individualized approach to pricing models. This could look like offering personalized financial aid packages or implementing an optional pricing structure that considers the uncertainty of the future.
- Develop new educational models. There has never been a more opportune time to “think outside of the box” when it comes to higher education. In a post-pandemic world, students may be seeking alternatives to a traditional four-year education. Offering certificate programs, specialized training, reskilling and upskilling tracts, or reduced-tuition models may attract many students who would otherwise seek this kind of instruction elsewhere.
- Support student health and mental wellness. We recommend creating a robust on-campus student health center where students can receive primary care and mental health services. The student health center should also serve as a one-stop-shop for vaccinations, treatments, contact tracing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and counseling. Having on-campus housing where students could quarantine and attend school online may also be necessary in the event of continuing COVID-19 surges or future pandemics.
- Offer a safety net. Colleges and universities need to closely monitor at-risk students and offer support services to keep these students enrolled. Early interventions can reduce mental health issues like feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety as well as identify external stressors that may keep a student from achieving their academic goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on higher education. Students, teachers, professors, and administrators have been impacted in profound ways. In order to nimbly move forward while still carrying the weight of the challenges of this global crisis, it will take resiliency and resolve. If we are able to take the lessons of the last two years and implement new strategies that are timely, appropriate and informed, we will forge a new way forward that will enable higher education to not only survive but to also thrive in a post-pandemic world.
I hope you found these posts to be thought-provoking. What do you think of these recommendations, agree, disagree, or? Let me know below!