It won’t be long before parents and students decide that paying full price for half the experience, regardless of the national pandemic, doesn’t make sense. And for some, the price tag may quite frankly become impossible to handle. As we enter the spring semester, colleges and universities MUST offer an experience as close to pre-COVID times as possible, or they risk saying goodbye to students for now, and maybe for good, along with those students’ tuition payments.
High Tuition Costs for 2020-2021
According to a U.S. News Report published in September 2020, schools ranked in the National Universities category had an average cost of tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 school year totaling $41,411 at private colleges, $11,171 for state residents at public colleges, and $26,809 for out-of-state students at state schools. And even though some schools transformed their learning to virtual or hybrid formats either before school started or once they experienced a spike in reported cases, tuition costs remained untouched.
Parents and students weighed their options. Some decided that paying full tuition for the semester or year was “just how it is” right now. So they forked out full tuition and hoped for the best.
Alternatively, some – a comparably smaller population – decided that the cost of tuition would not justify the virtual or hybrid experience schools discussed as an alternative to in-person learning. Instead, students opted for a leave of absence to take an internship or even take on a full-time job.
Students Hit the Breaking Point, and Colleges Hit a Pivot Point
Students who did attend school this past semester and paid full tuition are at a point that they must reevaluate the investment. Parents and students are in an economy that hasn’t recovered. What we anticipated as a “two-week” lockdown in some areas of the country turned into a tumultuous 5-6 months of interrupted work, school, and life in general.
As pandemic fatigue sets in, students and parents are hitting a breaking point where they are longing for unmasked pre-COVID days while experiencing pain in their heads and pockets. They must rub their bleary eyes and make some hard decisions for 2021 – some of which may include a reduction in spending by enrolling in a less expensive option or taking a job as an interim solution.
For schools, they are at an incredible pivot point where what they do next will determine their fate. Schools MUST figure out how to provide an experience that offers the value of tuition, and they must do it quickly. They have to break the stigma of becoming superspreaders and communicate their plans to keep everyone safe and offer an experience that equals tuition costs. If not, some schools will bid adieu to a mass exodus of students. And with those students goes their tuition payments for upcoming semesters — and maybe even forever.
So What Do Colleges and Universities Need to Do?
They need a plan that starts with and builds on a foundation of health and safety and they need to effectively communicate that plan to students and parents.
Does the university have a pandemic taskforce? Do they have a group of people within their institution, making decisions based on facts, guidelines, and effective protocols?
Also, how are they using technology? With the guidelines and facts proving to be a moving target, they need updated information and a way to track changes and record your actions. Platforms such as VirusSAFE EDU offer access to that information via an app and helps get everyone on your taskforce – and beyond – onto the same page, consuming the same information, and enforcing the same protocols.
And once the plan is put in place, communicating it to the school’s community is an integral part. Having a plan that keeps students, parents, faculty and staff safe is key. Sharing that plan to provide the larger community with the peace of mind they need to return to campus and continuing paying tuition is a vital step. And it’s one that the school can’t afford not to take.
What you can’t do is nothing. If you do, you risk losing students, tuition, funding, alumni support, and your reputation – all of which take a very long time to bring back.
U.S. News and World Report Reference Link: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/what-you-need-to-know-about-college-tuition-costs