COVID-19 has thrown a major wrench into the higher education experience. Now, both students and schools are grappling with what college may look like in the fall semester. Some schools have already announced that they will be returning to campus, but the unprecedented nature of this pandemic means many plans are still up in the air.
The pandemic is also creating a financial crunch for colleges and universities. Many students are wondering if it will be worth it to pay on campus tuition prices for online classes. Schools are already expecting massive financial losses. If students don’t, or can’t, return in the fall, it could be devastating for some schools.
Bob Davies is the president of Central Michigan University. He said he is “cautiously and relatively optimistic” that students will return to CMU in the fall. However, the school’s leadership is still planning to take their cues from the state and the CDC on the best course of action. If in-person classes do resume, Davies said the school would take steps to ensure they were safe. That includes measures like spacing out classes in large lecture halls to comply with social distancing, as well as cleaning rooms in between classes.
“When we look at and think about face-to-face, it will be a very different aspect than what we have known in the past," he said.
As college and university administrators work through the logistics of campus life, students and parents are weighing their choices as well. Experts are predicting a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall, which could necessitate another stay-at-home order or stricter social distancing guidelines.
Grace Bucholz is graduating from Grand Ledge High School this year and has plans to enroll as a freshman at Central Michigan University in the fall. She will be the fourth generation of her family to attend CMU.
Grace said she feels nervous about not getting to have the quintessential “college experience.” Her dad, TJ Bucholz, is also concerned about what his daughter will miss starting her college career in this strange moment.
“Living on your own, especially when you go to college, it’s a lot of trial and error where you learn more about yourself than you learn about the subject that you’re studying,” he said. “It is a really [big] growth opportunity for everyone, and I really want Grace to be afforded that opportunity.”
TJ said the family hasn’t made a decision yet on whether or not to send Grace off to CMU in the fall. They are trying to weigh the risk for her physical health alongside the changes to campus life. For now, Grace said she’s trying to remain hopeful that she will still get to have that typical “college experience.” She’s already been connecting with her roommates to make plans for the fall.
“We’ve been talking about our experience and what we’re going to do, how we’re going to move in," she said. "Like we’re not really talking about going to online, we’re just keeping our minds open to the fact that we’re actually going to have our experience to go to college.”
This article was written by Stateside production assistant Olive Scott.