As the coronavirus shut down businesses and other services across the country, a bright spotlight shone on colleges and universities. Would they close campuses? (Yes.) How much money would students get back? (Some.) When would those campuses reopen? (Eventually.) Will they be different when they do? (Probably.)
College leaders now work within those uncertainties, deciding whether it is prudent to resume campus-based instruction for the fall term and, if so, how. Additionally, in what ways can they safely and sincerely honor graduating students? And to what extent can they make promises to newcomers or those who are returning? Whether new students will show up in their previously anticipated numbers is also in question. College leaders also answer to the public, who have continued to call for schools to lower the cost of attendance.
All this while the virus's economic impact is triggering layoffs and furloughs, among other budget cuts. State funding is expected to take a hit, and donors may not be willing or able to come to the rescue under the current conditions.
College presidents contributing to our President Speaks series in recent weeks have opined about how these issues are affecting their campuses, and what may change as a result. Across the board, college executives are challenging their peers to be proactive in response to the pandemic. But what that looks like is largely to be determined.
Read on to see what college presidents are saying.