Spring is usually when late-teens and young adults who wish to attend college apply and enroll. This year, the decisions are more difficult with too many unanswered questions as the viral pandemic continues.
Will colleges open their classrooms this fall? It’s not guaranteed. Perhaps some will open and some will remain remote. Those that do open might make significant changes.
Colleges face financial pressure to re-open entirely. Without dormitory renters and cafeteria customers, revenues are down. Providing room and board for a profit is a key part of their business plans.
In late April, Johns Hopkins University said it will halt contributions to employees’ retirement plans and cut salaries in its leadership. The school also said some employees are expected to be furloughed or laid off.
We should expect similar cutbacks, pay reductions, furloughs and layoffs at other residential schools.
It seems to me “remote” attendance is a temporary fix but not a long-term solution to getting educated. Will the schools reduce tuition to reflect the diminished product of “virtual” classrooms? Doubtful. Are you willing to pay full tuition costs for a lesser learning experience? That’s up to you. Or maybe you don’t consider virtual to be any different from traditional classrooms.
Parents, whether you or a bus dropped the kids off at school all their lives, at least you knew they were in school. But with a virtual classroom, who knows?
Will a student even attend remote classes? Even with expensive technology, some will, some won’t. As usual, the self-motivated ones are more likely to succeed.
Students, you have to look into yourselves. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you focus better when you and the teacher are in the same room? Do you need the quiet of a classroom to listen to the teacher? Are you deaf and do lip-reading to get by?
In those cases, remote isn’t optimal for you.
If you are watching from home, maybe your siblings playing “tag” or the baby’s crying in the next room will hamper your efforts. Or the constant television blaring from 20 feet away for the convenience of other family members who can’t seem to exist without it. Or the ringing telephone, or the allure of the refrigerator — potential distractions galore.
Where will you study? Many prefer the school library. Will it be open? If you are not allowed to spend hours on end in the library, then where will you study? Is home a good place for you? Or at school? A dormitory, with potential distractions from every direction, is not always a good place to study.
What do you seek to study? Some subjects, such as courses on William Shakespeare or Mark Twain, might translate well to the virtual class. Or might not.
But if you want to study chemistry, you will need the equipment in the school’s laboratories. If you want to play in the school’s band, you will need to be there practicing in person with the others. If you choose a school because it has a great drama program and you wish to become the next Meryl Streep or Tom Hanks, well, that school you are eyeballing might not be putting on any productions.
My alma mater has a program in atmospheric science. The students need to use the equipment in the school’s weather building. Remote won’t cut the mustard. Likewise with other unusual studies – such as astronomy. You would need the school’s equipment and hands-on training in its use.
Many editors got their start working on our college newspaper, which was printed twice a week, on campus, with a circulation of more than 10,000. That learning experience would be far reduced if the enterprise became virtual.
Does the student wish to commute to college from home? Well, that might work, if there’s a suitable college in your area.
Or does the student seek an away-for-college experience, living in a dormitory with other students? Perhaps on a campus with tens of thousands?
Health risks will be a factor in making decisions.
So will the location of the college.
Conditions in New York are still dire enough that they became the first (and so far only) state to cancel – not postpone, but cancel – its presidential primary, which had been slated for June 23 (which itself was a postponement from the original April 28).
Suppose you have been accepted this fall to attend a prestigious Ivy League university – Columbia. Take a bow, that is quite a feat. But do you dare attend? Columbia just happens to be in New York’s Manhattan borough. Are you going to risk it? If you are a parent of the accepted student, would you sanction your offspring’s going there?
Very difficult questions. No easy answers.
Me, I would be tempted to skip a year of college, perhaps start working, but in the meantime purchase all the textbooks for the courses I thought I would take, and read them deeply. Then I could enroll the following year, when schools presumably will be live again, and have already done the required reading. But that is me.
What is right for you? Only you can decide.
If you have consumerism questions, send them to Arthur Vidro in the care of this newspaper, which publishes his column every weekend.