Higher Ed in the News: 5/26/2020

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash.

We hope you had a restful long weekend. This week on Higher Ed in the News, we look at a couple of stories involving enrollment in the coming year.

You can read previous editions of this series here and here.


Colleges and Corporate Partners Taking Action Against “Summer Melt” 

The coronavirus pandemic has left incoming college freshmen and their families in worse financial positions than previous years, which could jeopardize enrollment for the upcoming fall semester. In a recent piece for the Hechinger Report, Delece Smith-Barrow explores this troubling trend and shares what schools and businesses in the education industry are doing to freeze the “summer melt” this year. 

To combat this dilemma that already affects “between 10 and 20 percent of high school seniors who are admitted to college and intend to go,” schools are leaning on their summer-bridge programs for first-generation and low-income students, utilizing video conferencing to make students and parents aware of expanded financial aid opportunities. Some community colleges are even allowing recent grads and those entering their senior year of high school to take two free summer courses for transferable college credit.

Educational services providers are also adapting their products and services to meet new demand and extend resources to those most in need. The Richmond Promise Scholars program has transitioned its workshops on budgeting, campus resources, and financial aid to online platforms, so students can continue to benefit from their services. A joint effort culminated in “a chatbot specifically for low-income and first-generation students” that responds to questions about financial aid, housing, and applying to college that has already assisted over 173,000 students.


International Student Enrollment For Fall Semester Expected to Drop

In an intriguing article for Education Dive, Natalie Schwartz examines findings from a recent survey by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and included responses from 599 members of the higher ed community in the United States, reveals that an overwhelming 88% of respondents are bracing for a decline in international student enrollment in the upcoming school year. 

According to Schwartz, the primary factors contributing to this projected decline relate to travel restrictions. Whether it’s an issue with obtaining a visa or restrictions prohibiting travel outside of their country, international students are being left with limited options to continue their intended educational path. A staggering 16% of these students are not expected to return to school for the fall semester, putting many school budgets in precarious positions. With roughly one-third of these students hailing from China, travel restrictions and relations between the two countries will be especially impactful. Though these concerns are not as prominent, survey respondents also reported that students might avoid obtaining their degree in the U.S. if the pandemic’s economic toll is too severe. 

To offset these barriers, schools are implementing some creative solutions. Eighty-four percent of respondents said their institution is providing assistance with student visa obtainment and 74% are offering housing options in or around the campus; 44% reported that they’re now offering online exams to international students and 40% are presenting enrollment deferment options, giving students some much-needed flexibility under such extreme circumstances.