Q. What kinds of questions should I be asking? I don’t know what to ask.


Start with honest reflection on your school’s place in the world. The more selective and wealthier your school, the more easily you can ride out the medium-term, worst-case scenario, of deferring the fall 2020 semester. 

Most schools are not in this position. Assuming the virus seriously impacts fall 2020, schools need to ask the following questions:

Traditional-Aged Undergraduates

Why should 18-21-year-olds sign up for remote instruction or online learning when this is a far cry from the “college” they signed up for?

Even if they can’t take a year off because work and travel options are limited why would they not defer enrollment for at least a semester, if not a year, and do a few transferable online credits at a low-price school instead?

Your school needs–if only as a back-up plan–a version of online learning that makes these students WANT TO enroll in the fall. This version of online needs to be social, immersive, engaging, and fun. It can’t simply be good practice designed for adult learners. 

Adult Undergraduates & Graduate Students

What will make the difference between fall 2020 seeing a surge of interest from these populations in your school–like past recessions–and a big decline in interest?

If the pandemic is still raging come fall, and the economy is reeling, affordable online programs will have an advantage. But if the federal government opts to admit alternative  providers offering cheap, short, employer-facing programs to federal financial aid to help with the recovery, how would your school’s programs compete? Or what if tough times persuaded many prospective students to embrace free or low-priced MOOC-type offerings instead of formal credentials and institutions?

Schools need to have a compelling argument about why the extra time and expense of a degree is worth it. Is the curriculum superior? Are the faculty better qualified or more experienced? Is the teaching exemplary? Does your school have stellar employer relationships and alumni? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves.

Richard Garrett

Eduventures Chief Research Officer at ACT | NRCCUA

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