COVID-19

Colleges look at delaying the first day of school … again

Erika Beras Jan 6, 2021
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Students and their families move belongings at a campus dormitory at the University of South Carolina on Aug. 10, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina. Sean Rayford/Getty Images
COVID-19

Colleges look at delaying the first day of school … again

Erika Beras Jan 6, 2021
Heard on:
Students and their families move belongings at a campus dormitory at the University of South Carolina on Aug. 10, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina. Sean Rayford/Getty Images
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The new year also means the start of a new semester for colleges and universities. But some institutions are once again delaying the start of classes, or moving what would have been in-person classes online. 

Those decisions are being driven by the pandemic, and the surge of infection rates around the country. But this second round of delayed starts and online classes will have both immediate and far-reaching financial implications for institutions. 

Marybeth Gasman’s daughter is a student at Bryn Mawr College. She was supposed to go back to school in mid-January and now she’s looking at mid-February. 

“They’re definitely coming back on campus and staying in residence halls,” she said. “But the last email we got was, you know, this could change at any point.”

Gasman isn’t only a college parent. She teaches at Rutgers and studies minority-serving institutions of higher education. Schools are weighing health risks and their finances to make decisions, she said.

“If you don’t have a safety net and you don’t have a strong endowment and you are very, very tuition reliant, your situation is much, much more dire,” Gasman said. 

Dire because of reduced enrollment and unexpected costs — millions of dollars spent on personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing. 

Chris Marsicano is with the College Crisis Initiative at Davidson College. He said these decisions are harder for state schools and smaller ones.

“A lot of institutions are heavily dependent on tuition and room and board in order to keep their doors open,” he said.

School budgets are in worse shape now than they were last fall, said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall. 

“But on the bright side, there’s a clearer ending point to the pandemic than there was in the fall,” he said.

That’s due to the vaccine. And, Kelchen said, schools have taken other steps: laying off staff, canceling majors, delaying entry to PhD programs and pay cuts. 

Kelchen said his pay was cut by 7% in the Spring. It’s unclear when it’ll be restored. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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