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Chegg CEO: In the short term, COVID-19 will be “devastating” for higher ed

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry May 19, 2020
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The campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is seen nearly empty as classes were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Chegg CEO: In the short term, COVID-19 will be “devastating” for higher ed

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry May 19, 2020
Heard on:
The campus of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., is seen nearly empty as classes were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Classes over Zoom. Canceled graduations. Online exams. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed education as we know it ⁠— for now, at least. Dan Rosensweig, CEO of educational tech company Chegg, thinks the changes could be longer lasting.

“I’ve been predicting, not happily, by the way, that about 20% to 25% of colleges are going to go bankrupt,” Rosensweig told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal.

Chegg, which is best known for textbook rentals and its online homework services, saw a 35% increase in the number of subscribers year-over-year, according to its first quarter earnings report.

But while the pandemic could present opportunities for Chegg, the future for some colleges is uncertain. In a recent letter to students and alumni, the president of Wells College in Aurora, New York, warned the school may close forever if it’s unable to host students for fall semester.

According to Rosensweig, this could be the beginning of a larger trend. “I don’t think people will put the same value on dorms and food,” he said.

“I think the aftermath might be great,” Rosensweig said. “But the short term is going to be devastating to a lot of schools, a lot of faculty and, unfortunately, a lot of students.”

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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