Colleges will try their best to get first-year students enrolled for Fall 2020, but really there are few compelling reasons to start college in 2020. Save yourself the time, money, and aggravation and take (at least) the 2020-2021 school year off from attending college.
Never let a crisis go to waste is a maxim someone at Case Western University must deeply believe in, as the university’s admissions office announced today that it is now test-optional for students entering in the fall of 2021.
Case Western framed this admissions switcheroo in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the ACT and SAT to cancel spring test dates.
“We understand students’ concerns about completing Case Western Reserve’s standardized testing requirements for admission. In response, the university has approved a test-optional policy for students applying for the fall 2021 semester. In light of the unprecedented circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has created, Case Western Reserve believes students’ best interests are served by an approach that assures them of our flexibility as they progress through the college search process.”
The university went on to add, “We will determine policies for future classes in winter 2020/21.”
Expect more colleges to do this. While clear-eyed people will find unsavory the trend of colleges wrapping self-interest-guided decisions in imitative altruism during a real crisis when so many real people are suffering and losing their jobs/incomes – and potentially their lives, college admissions deans and their overlords are focused on generating as many applications as possible no matter the calamity that surrounds them.
Whatever happened to unvarnished honesty, especially in a time of crisis? Case – and many other colleges – want as many applicants as they can muster from the high school class of 2021 in what is likely to be an admissions cycle characterized by “softer” demand than college administrators want to contemplate.
I’ll believe “students’ best interests are served” when these same institutions reduce the price of tuition and/or offer permanent full-time online degrees. We don’t even know if recently deposited students from the high school class of 2020 will be able to start their college experiences on campus in August. In the meantime, congrats to Case on the PR and aggressively-timed (why not announce this over the summer?) attempt to stabilize your finances for FY2021-2022.
With each passing day more cases of COVID-19 are reported around the world. Meanwhile, every year college dorms across the United States become breeding grounds for viral and bacterial illnesses. Therefore, it would make sense for colleges from coast to coast to step up what is hopefully already a solid game plan should the worst happen – COVID-19 breaking out on campus.
Yet, at least publicly, there is not much proof that emergency plans are being dusted off and updated in anticipation for COVID-19. While many colleges in the U.S. are keeping mum about how they will react should COVID-19 break out on their campuses, at least one university to the north has put out a statement urging calm. Simon Fraser University in Canada released a notice stating that it “is actively reviewing its infectious disease protocols, pandemic plan and meeting with key stakeholders to ensure our three campuses are prepared and able to respond if needed.”
As recently as earlier this month, many colleges seemed just as concerned about xenophobia stemming from the Asian origins of the illness as they were about protecting the physical well-being of their current residential students.
In Maryland, enrollment professionals and those tasked with thinking about a college’s finances are worried about what COVID-19 may mean for enrollment of international students, many of whom are from China. Luckily, there are also members of the University System of Maryland who are at least thinking about how to react should COVID-19 present on one of its campuses; yet, the actual plan for such a dangerous virus – one that can take weeks for symptoms to appear and even more weeks for patients to succumb to death – are vague in Maryland and beyond.
Not only do American colleges and universities have to plan for protecting their domestic campuses, in many cases they also need to plan for evacuating and/or triaging their employees or students working or studying in remote domestic or international locales. This is a logistical challenge in normal times; in times of a real emergency, such as a pandemic, which has not occurred in the modern age, are colleges and universities up to the task of protecting their own? Or are they waiting on guidance from state governments or the federal government?
What’s certain is that currently most college students’ only knowledge of COVID-19 has come via Facebook’s random advisory showing up on students’ Facebook feeds (see below).
Students shouldn’t have to get their COVID-19 information from Facebook. Colleges needs to get ahead of matters – and quickly. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning that community spread within the United States could come at any time, all American colleges and universities need to make their emergency plans public now so that all stakeholders are ready to appropriately respond should the virus take root in the U.S.
2/26/20 Update from Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano: “At least five American universities have canceled study programs in Italy. The list includes Elon University, Fairfield University, Florida International University, New York University, Stanford University, and Syracuse University, almost all with programs in Florence.” More from Voice of America and Stanford Daily.
2/27/20 Update from The Spokesman-Review: “Gonzaga University students studying abroad in Italy will return to the United States due to the spread of COVID-19, Gonzaga Provost Deena J. Gonzalez said in an employee email.”