As the 2020–21 school year begins, institutions across the country — and the world — have been forced to make last-minute changes to policies to keep their physical and digital doors open. In some cases, the economic impacts from the pandemic are too devastating.
For small institutions, the loss of income from sports and decreased enrollment has proved damaging. As the Big Ten schools announced they would only play in conference games, an example has been set that smaller institutions with a stronger reliance on athletic income will have to follow.
Some colleges have pushed fall sports back to the spring, while others voluntarily made the decision to cancel athletics for the time being to keep students safe. In some cases, athletic conferences, such as the Northeast Suburban Athletic Conference, have canceled altogether and effectively made the decision on sports participation for colleges and universities.
Nebraska Christian College of Papillion, Nebraska, a branch campus of Hope International University based in Fullerton, California, had already struggled with enrollment and operating costs. By spring of this year with enrollment at 85 students —half of which were already in online programs — the college was forced to cease operations.
While the process of ensuring that classes can be moved online without sacrificing student experiences is easier in college settings than for many public schools, colleges have experienced decreases in on-campus residences as a result of online classes according to the New York Times.
MacMurray College, a liberal arts school in Jacksonville, Illinois, also ceased operations in March after the pandemic increased their financial struggles.
The University of Nebraska — Lincoln has opted to close its branch of the Confucius Institute as part of a $38.2 million budget cut plan.
Among higher education institutions that have successfully reopened for in-person classes, the concern of returning to online and off-campus learning remains. Social distancing may be effective when it is enforced in classroom and residential environments, but several major institutions have seen outbreaks due to partying and other instances of students not following guidelines.
Oklahoma State University, the University of Washington at Seattle and the University of New Hampshire have all taken action against fraternities and sororities for hosting parties where social distancing was not enforced.
Two weeks after students came back to campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the college’s infection rate was 13.6%, 526 students, according to the university’s website. For the undergraduate students at that college, all classes will be online for the rest of the semester. The University of Alabama, in early August, reported more than 1,000 cases but did not close according to CNN.