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What Will Post-Coronavirus Education Look Like?


America has been in the throes of an educational crisis for a long time, with skyrocketing tuition that has made many rethink the value and concomitant declines in enrollment, which have been exacerbated by stringent student visa policies; but the COVID-19 pandemic may be the final straw before a major restructuring. 

The world will change quite abruptly, forcing institutions of higher learning to step up their game in a number of ways. 

“Tradition” is likely on its way out, and it won’t spare colleges and universities as it exits the stage in a huff. 

In the midst of a pandemic, many high-school graduates are turning to online education or skipping enrolling altogether. 

With that in mind, though Trump wants campuses to open in September, it is not clear yet what the upcoming school year will look like.

But the fact is that the coronavirus crisis has already changed the way this year’s crop of high school seniors are thinking about higher education. 

Fighting for student enrolment and amending programs to attract them will likely continue in the coming years as Generation Z, now reaching college age, believes that you can do “okay” without a degree, according to a recent survey by Pearson.

A significant portion of the Gen Z demographic is having second thoughts about whether college is even necessary to accomplish their goals. 

According to new data by the Art & Science Group, due to pandemic and financial uncertainty, one in six students who have already made deposits no longer plan to attend a four-year college full-time.

Another study, commissioned by Brian Communications stresses that 4 in 10 parents now say the Covid-19 crisis may prompt their children to delay going to college. 

With schools uncertain about whether they will even offer on-campus learning in the fall, online learning has become more centric in people's lives.

 Aside from pandemic-related reasons, in the last decade, the cost of higher education in the US has risen by a whopping 26%--and it was already expensive. 

From 2008 to 2018, tuition at four-year public schools rose an average of 3.1% a year while median inflation-adjusted family income increased by only 0.8% a year, and the cost of living rose 30% over the past 13 years. Food and housing costs climbed 36% and 32%, respectively.

US student loan borrowers (about 45 million people) owe a collective $1.6 trillion in federal and private student loan debt.   The emerging situation could end up being financially devastating for educational institutions.

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the outlook for higher education from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ and expects that universities will face unprecedented enrollment uncertainty for fiscal year 2020-2021

The University of Michigan said it anticipates losses of $400 million to $1 billion this year across its three campuses. The University of California was hit with $558 million in unanticipated costs in March alone while Iowa's three public universities could face $187 million in lost revenue.

Yet, the biggest financial shock is likely to hit smaller private colleges and regional public universities, some of which have already announced definite closure.

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An additional burden is that most likely fewer international students will enroll in US schools for the upcoming academic year due to visa policy. Foreign students contributed nearly $41 billion to the national economy in the 2018-2019 academic year, according to NAFSA, the Association of International Educators.

But where there’s a loser, there’s also a winner--and in this case, the clear winner is online education, which was already making serious gains before COVID-19. 

Amid the pandemic, online is soaring for obvious reasons. 

Even prior to that, Research and Markets was forecasting that the online education market would hit $350 billion by 2025. COVID will not only speed that up; it will likely further boost it. 

And it won’t just be a boost for pure-play online educators such as Udemy or Coursera, we are also likely to see major universities who once looked down on online education now fast-forwarding to a very digital future if they wish to survive. 

The world is changing so fast, with or without COVID-19, and people need to be able to adapt to rapidly changing demand for skill sets, which traditional four-year universities can’t usually account for.

The education revolution is upon us, and in the end it could end up bringing down higher education prices to something that makes sense for a much smarter America. 

By Josh Owens for Safehaven.com 

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