Financial exigency, remote fall and a special Q&A

Monday, we meet again.

We’ll get right to the palate cleansers today, but first I want to remind you that, as always on Mondays, we have a special Q&A at the end of the roundup. This one is with the new CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. You don’t want to miss it.

On to some fun.

A lot of people are baking right now (I resolutely refuse to do so). If you’re getting bored of your round or squareish loafs, why not try making frog bread?

Here is a happy puppy singing along with some wind chimes. Thought you’d like me to pass it along.

And if you need a fun read to start your week (besides this roundup, of course) here’s a story of a former Senate majority leader who believes in UFOs.

Now to the news.

The American College Health Association issued guidelines for reopening campuses, saying institutions should expect limitations for at least the next 12 to 18 months.

An April survey from Sallie Mae and Ipsos found that close to 80 percent of high school juniors and seniors still plan to attend college, up four percentage points from a survey in January.

Lincoln University in Missouri is declaring financial exigency because of impacts from the pandemic. It was not clear on Friday what cost-cutting measures the university intends to take.

Wells College in New York plans to shut down if the state requires campuses to remain closed through the fall. Too much of its revenue is tied to room and board fees to survive virtually, the president said.

The Dallas Community College District, with its 160,000 students, plans to stay remote through the fall semester, even as nearby institutions vow to reopen.

Simmons University, with help from ed-tech company 2U, is redesigning hundreds of its courses so they can be delivered online and in-person in the fall, depending on what the pandemic brings.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

Rick Seltzer has the scoop on how the number of private colleges at risk of closure has skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to some organizations’ data.

Parking lots — with proximity to Wi-Fi signals — are now an important piece of college life for many low-income students, Colleen Flaherty reports.

Students are sad they won’t get to walk the stage at graduation and receive a diploma. So institutions are letting them live vicariously through robots, Elizabeth Redden writes.​

News From Elsewhere

The Federal Reserve might set up a system to loan funds to colleges, MarketWatch reports.

Brazil’s education minister has suggested institutions that reopen in the fall will get more funding, despite worry over the increase in COVID-19 related deaths, Times Higher Education reports.

Florida Career College got millions from the CARES Act relief package. Students are calling it a sham institution, NPR reports.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we try not to have opinions, but we’ve gathered some interesting ones from others.

A professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor wrote about his experience teaching while sick with COVID-19 for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, wrote about the system his institution is creating to monitor coronavirus outbreaks when learning is no longer remote.


Thanks for sticking around. Below is our Q&A this week with Angel ​Pérez, the incoming CEO for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How are you feeling about taking the reins at NACAC during a pandemic?

A: I guess the way I would describe it is, it’s mixed emotions. I’m excited, I’m humbled and I’m daunted all at the same time.

I think it’s healthy to be a little bit daunted. Any big national position certainly has its challenges, but when you add on top of that a global pandemic, and even just transitioning jobs during a pandemic, it can certainly be challenging. A lot of people, during a crisis, run in the other direction. I tend to run towards the fire. So I’m actually excited, because I think there are a lot of opportunities for change and transformation in the midst of a crisis. So while I know there will be challenges, I am excited about the opportunities.

Q: What opportunities do you see?

A: The reality of the matter is, there have been a lot of issues that the members of the association and the enrollment profession in general have been facing over the last several years. I do think the pandemic has accelerated some of those issues and the need to deal with some of those.

A few months ago, we were so concerned about the Department of Justice ruling, which led to a change in the Code of Ethics and how that was actually going to impact enrollment. Now that conversation has really shifted to, how are colleges and universities going to make enrollment goals in the midst of a pandemic that’s extraordinarily complicated?

For me I see a tremendous opportunity for NACAC to play a role in leading that conversation, in being supportive of members who are going through this unprecedented change. I think people are going to be looking for leadership, they’re going to be looking for professional development, and they’re also going to be looking for organizations that are going to advocate for them on a public policy level. I think NACAC can play that role and play it very well.

The other opportunity I see is, I think there probably is going to be some sort of reinvention of the college admissions process. If you’ve seen what’s happened over past few weeks, you’ve had colleges and universities going test optional in the span of a week, you have had schools becoming much more flexible about what students are required to submit, you’ve had changes in what students have to submit to be eligible for financial aid. One of my greatest hopes for a post-pandemic admissions process is greater simplification. I definitely believe that one of the positive things that could come out of this is that colleges and universities could actually become more student centered in their admissions process.

Q: What do you see as the biggest issues in admissions right now due to the coronavirus?

A: I think the No. 1 is making your class. Every single chief enrollment officer in the world right now, not just the nation, is thinking about, how do I make a class despite the fact that the traditional ways of predicting enrollment, your traditional econometric models, no longer apply in this case? That is the biggest challenge right now on everyone’s mind.

And knowing that, despite all of your efforts (and I think everyone in admissions is working harder now than ever), there will be scenarios that you cannot control. For example, international student mobility around the world is going to be impacted by this, and there’s very little that admissions officers can do to impact whether or not embassies reopen, consulates reopen, students can get visas or whether or not Trump decides to reopen the borders.

I think that’s one of the greatest frustrations that enrollment officers are facing right now. All of the tools and levers that they’re used to using in order to predict enrollment, they can no longer use.

Q: How do you think COVID-19 will impact the future of admissions?

A: I think there is the short term and the long term. There obviously will be a financial impact. How big this financial impact will be to the higher education sector over all is yet to be determined. But most colleges and universities have already felt a huge financial blow as a result of this.

Depending on how many students institutions can enroll in the fall — and I see the fall as short term — there is going to be a very significant financial hit. That will have long-term implications, because at most four-year colleges and universities, when you enroll a class, it has a four-year financial effect.

But there are also, again, opportunities. I see opportunities for being a little bit more flexible with students around the admissions process. I also see opportunities for higher education leaders and organizations that feed into the work of higher education to really advocate at a national and federal level around the way that higher education is funded, and also college access programs and pipeline programs.

I do think this was a wake-up call for government officials. I do think it is an embarrassment to the nation, the United States, that we have a significant number of colleges and universities in this country that are three months away from bankruptcy. That is not the kind of nation we want to be.

So I do think there is a unique opportunity here, when the dust settles, to create a massive federal campaign around the way that colleges and universities are funded, and the kind of financial support we give students. Because the way I’ve been thinking about this is, higher education has never been more important. If you think about all of our front-line workers, the doctors and the nurses, and all of the people that are providing a lot of support right now, they all had to go through higher education training to get those jobs. The next crisis is going to be solved by people that have higher education. My positive lens here, in my scope of opportunity, is around the fact that we can use this to create change around how we fund higher education.

Q: What do you want NACAC’s focus to be during this time? Why?

A: I think first and foremost the most important thing the association will do is support its members, because the members are in unprecedented territory. Many of them are going to need training, professional development. They will also need networking and connections. One of the things the association does really well is that it brings people together. The one thing I’ll say about this profession is that people share so much with each other.

So NACAC will be the organization that provides the platform to bring people together to solve these problems, solve the enrollment challenges. Also, we’ll be bringing high school counselors and community-based organizations together next year to really think about, how will we counsel the next high school graduating class? Because they’re going to encounter a process that doesn’t exist. They’re going to encounter a different process than the seniors encountered this year. So NACAC can lead that conversation and bring people together and provide the professional development.

The other side of it is that NACAC can be providing the support around public policy and advocacy so that the issues members care about get to the politicians that need to know.

Q: A few months ago, NACAC changed its Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. With colleges now desperate for students, how do you expect the landscape of admissions to change with the new code?

A: I think the conversation has changed, and it’s no longer about the Code of Ethics. Yes, that was a significant moment in the association’s history, but because of COVID-19 and the pressures that colleges are going to be facing, colleges and universities are going to do whatever they need to do to make the class. So yes, there will be a lot more wait list activity. There will be a lot more colleges that are reopening application portals so that students can apply during the summertime.

The biggest impact around that, at least for this summer, is that you will just see we are no longer in the same timeline that we used to be. The sanctity of May 1 and June 1, because many schools changed their deadline, is no longer. This is the first year for a lot of universities and colleges in America where they really will not know what their enrollment numbers are until the students walk in the door.

I do have to put a little caveat there. There are institutions in this country, particularly the ones that are not selective, where that was the way they functioned before. But I think the reason this is so uprooting for a lot of other members is because it’s really, really different. Most schools are used to knowing in May or June what their class is going to look like. They can plan budgets; they can start to plan housing and orientation. And that entire timeline will be shifted this year. I don’t agree that it’s a direct correlation to the DOJ ruling because I think COVID-19 has changed everything.

Q: Many worried that the Code of Ethics and Professional Practice change would lead to colleges poaching students. Do you think that’s inevitable now, given the situation?

A: I do think that was definitely starting to happen once the Code of Ethics was changed. I think now the reason why people are doing it is probably different because of COVID.

I do think it gives colleges and universities more flexibility in reopening applications, or going to their wait list earlier than they ever had before, or poaching students from other institutions. I also think there will be an impact on transfer students. Unlike other years, where you couldn’t approach transfer students before a certain timeline, now you can start recruiting transfer students immediately. So it’s not just about the incoming class. Colleges and universities should be worried about whether or not they’re going to lose their returning students to other institutions.

Q: Will this make it harder for some to hold on to students?

A: Yes. My prediction is that the admission cycle will be a 12-month cycle now, because enrollment efforts will continue until the class is made. And that’s new. That’s not the way it was before.

Q: What students do you think will suffer/win the most in the next few admissions cycles? Are high-income students more likely to get merit aid packages to lure them in, and will lower-income students be left behind?

A: I think we do stand the potential to broaden the equity gap. There could be lots of incentivization through merit aid awards, stronger financial aid packages. Obviously, wealthier students may have more to gain here, because if you can incentivize those populations through merit aid and still net a certain amount of tuition, it’s a win for the institution. There is a danger that perhaps low-income students might lose in this case. Or that low-income students may end up being riddled with more debt than they are used to, because colleges and universities are having to pull back on financial aid.

I’m not saying this is exactly what’s going to happen, but I do think these are the kinds of ethical conversations that colleges and universities are having right now. Because the more financial aid you provide, the less revenue you bring in. And without money, there is no mission.

Q: What should institutions do to avoid this?

A: Some of it is being very strategic around some of the stimulus packages that are coming out of the federal government and trying to use those strategically.

For institutions that have a strong alumni network, this is a perfect call to action. I think many alums will want to see their institutions thrive and get through this. A perfect call to action is, “Help us to continue our diversity, equity, access and inclusion goals on the campus.” There is a great opportunity to galvanize momentum from alums.

It’s the perfect opportunity for storytelling, whether it’s going to foundations or even local or state government. One of the things that’s important is for colleges and universities to remind their local and state governments of the financial impact they have in their local communities. There are schools that produce billions in revenue for their local economies. There has to be a public policy approach to this problem as well, which eventually trickles down to more money for students.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

A: The only thing I would say is more so advice. Admissions officers are working harder than ever and may feel a sense of hopelessness, but I actually think the work that they’re doing has never been more important. There will be another side of this, and we will get through it.

This is the point of reinvention. I would really advise people to stick with it, because the work they do now is actually transformative, not just for students, but it’s going to be transformative to their institutions.


Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.



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