Higher Ed in the News: 9/7

Photo by Max Böttinger on Unsplash.

This week on Higher Ed in the News, helping out student workers and discussing the plight of RAs on campus during the pandemic. You can read previous editions of this series here.


Colleges Taking Action To Assist Those Left Unemployed By School Closings

Many working students’ livelihoods have been in limbo since the pandemic abruptly forced education online, and things could get more difficult for them. Natalie Schwartz of Education Dive writes that schools are implementing a variety of measures to minimize their hardship. 

For most schools, their primary focus is on career training and educational opportunities that can help them weather the financial storm in the short-term while also setting themselves up for a brighter employment path down the road. This includes offering recently unemployed students heavily discounted courses, some as low as $20 per credit, as well as “short-term programs that lead to certificates in several fields, such as accounting and marketing, information technology, and health communications.” 

Other schools are offering free courses that introduce former employees to in-demand careers like contact tracing. Even students and recent grads who didn’t work for their schools are benefitting from these measures as some colleges and universities are offering free access to virtual learning via Google, Salesforce, and Coursera. The most unique approach Schwartz profiled was Miami Dade College, where they’re paying students $100 per credit hour as an incentive to join their free career development program.


RAs and Outdoor Beer Pong: The Solution to Campus COVID Precautions?

College students, staff, and faculty entered a whole new world with respect to student behavior, safety precautions, and public health on campus this fall. We’ve already discussed how a lot is being asked of individual students, a recipe for disaster when the margin for error is slim. 

Ezra Marcus of The New York Times wrote an extensive story on the new plight of RAs. RAs already played a significant role in moderating student behavior and maintaining safety, but Marcus writes that “colleges have drafted them to another front line” amid the pandemic. The author notes that RAs are spread more thin, risking spread of the virus as they perform their duties, and some are even quitting from their roles due to concerns over safety and lack of support from the university, and the strain of policing their fellow students with such high stakes.

Some are using this opportunity to work more closely with students to allow social gatherings to happen in a safe way, rather than banning them altogether, Elissa Nadworny writes for NPR. The Vice President of Student Life at Furman University said she has relied on student organizations.

“They are the lifeblood of any campus,” she said. “Students are so much more creative, honestly, than we are.” At a recent outdoor movie showing on campus, students used hula hoops for social distancing.

A Yale professor went as far as to say schools may want to consider finding ways to accommodate drinking events, in the interest of being stricter about social distancing.

“If you have to turn a blind eye to a game of beer pong that is happening on the quad or in a driveway, that’s well worth it,” says Paltiel. “What you’re trying to prevent is the superspreader event where 150 unmasked kids get way too close to each other in the basement of some frat house with no windows open. That’s what you’re trying to prevent.”