No Clear End in Sight for Students

Colleges debate continuing virtual-learning throughout the fall semester as scientists warn social distancing could last through 2022.

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As a second wave of COVID cases looms, universities will likely remain closed for the fall semester.

Emma Hutchin, Photo Editor

After months of online classes, virtual assessments and lunches over facetime, the end is in sight for many students across the country. However, Harvard researchers believe social distancing may have to continue up until 2022 unless a vaccine can be made readily available, according to Cable News Network. Based on this projected timeline, the possibility of students being able to stay on campuses long term seems unlikely. 

Although many states have re-opened and others are projected to start the re-opening process within the next few weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that a second wave of the virus is almost certainly going to hit coming the fall season, according to Cable News Network. This will occur just in time for not only the fall semester but also will spearhead the next influenza season. 

Schools may attempt to open during the end of the summer for orientations, and campus tours, but will have to close and continue distanced learning, should a second outbreak occur. The problem with this is hundreds of universities across the country are in financial turmoil and smaller colleges will have difficulty recovering from a decrease in enrollment and endowment. There will likely be a rise in the number of students taking gap-years in the fall due to schools such as the University of Chicago, not decreasing tuition in the face of continued distance learning, according to The New York Times.  

Some students are also not going to be willing to travel as far from home, in the case that immediate closures occur again at the beginning of the fall semester. There will be a decrease in international students, whose tuition fills a large portion of schools’ income, due to restricted travel and closures. Many colleges have halted construction projects to aid in paying teachers and President Donald Trump has signed a $2 trillion rescue bill to aid higher education during this time of decreasing collegiate participation, according to the Associated Press. 

Regardless, colleges will do their best efforts to put students back on campus, not only for face-to-face learning but also to rescue sinking incomes. This will come at a price, however, due to the projected second spike in COVID-19 cases likely to arrive at the same time as students start to unpack their things. The new-age learning that has been introduced during shelter in place practices will shape the future of higher education and make online schooling more affordable and reasonable. More and more students are demanding lower costs, and unless those needs are met, the enrollment rates of larger, more expensive universities are going to drop immensely. 

It would be nice to hope for an end to the panic and uncertainty when it comes to many students’ collegiate education, but until a vaccine is created or social distancing orders are followed, traditional college experiences may become a thing of the past.