Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Experts and pundits are already weighing in as to how the COVID-19 pandemic might change the landscape of higher education. While the results of this pandemic might prove to be financially devastating, I'm not quite ready to agree that it will directly cause any radical change in the way most Americans view universities and the value they bring.
One very likely scenario is that some tuition dependent smaller colleges and universities close or enter into merger agreements. But, this was already an impending outcome for these struggling institutions well before the corona virus. This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education offers some interesting points.
One cable news personality, Tucker Carlson, delivered a four minute anti-college rant a few days ago. It's worth watching, but I think Carlson pretty much got it all wrong. At one point Carlson suggests that students will see the new value in online education and opt to keep learning over computer screens instead of reporting to college campuses. Carlson at one point says, "You can do the whole thing online." Of course, I'm biased as a university instructor and administrator, but you can't just "do the whole thing" online, whatever that means. It's attitudes like this that make education seem like a commodity or business transaction rather than teaching students how to live better lives, become lifelong learners, and advance the common good. That is especially true at the nearly two hundred colleges and universities in the U.S, affiliated with the Catholic Church. I have no doubt that some colleges will suffer in the very near future. And, I think it's fair to say that many institutions need to be smarter about their budgets moving forward. However, I'd be surprised if this disastrous time convinces more students and families to seek online education as an alternative to traditional college, at least at the undergraduate level. If anything, it might cause more students to realize just how much they value campus life.