The Best of Times In The Worst Of Times – Light In The Darkness During The Covid-19 Crisis –

By – Pamela Williams

It is human nature to fail to see the rays of light peeping from the tree branches in the darkness of the forest.  When one is drowning in fear, one runs instead of standing still long enough to truly evaluate a situation.  However, I was just forced to stand still for several days during a hospitalization. I would have time to observe the changes Covid-19 has forced upon a core institution burdened with the challenge of implementing those changes in life or death instances.

The ambulance arrived as usual, but my husband did not follow it in his vehicle.  He was restricted from going into the hospital with me, so I was on my own.  He could not hold my hand while the needles went in or the tube was inserted into my stomach. I was filled with dread.

Inside the emergency vehicle the masks moving around me did not hinder the expertise or hide the kindness of the professionals who attended to my needs. The isolation I had felt in knowing my husband would not be with me in the emergency room quickly faded.

My arrival at Haywood Regional Medical Center was comforting, as I knew my pain would soon ease off.  I have a stomach condition in which bowel blockages occur without warning.  The only course of treatment is an insertion of a NG tube and observation in the hospital. Surgery is always an option which could occur, so it is a difficult wait.

I wondered what I would find inside the hospital walls due to the Covid-19 crisis.  Would there be a failure in communication between the departments and the staff?  Would there be a general coldness and uncomfortable atmosphere due to the additional burden imposed upon an institution thrust into the very core of the Covid-19 pandemic?  Most of all, would it alter the treatment I needed to survive?

From the point of entry to the actual insertion of the tube, I felt only ease and support for my condition.  There was swift and coordinated movement from one task to the other, and soon I was able to call my husband to let him know what room I would be admitted to. It remained the same throughout my hospital stay, and I was both humbled and in gratitude for the care I had received.

What I observed touched me to my very core, but most of all, it opened me up to the miracle of the human spirit when it is aligned with its highest purpose.  Ease in excellence was all that I observed at Haywood Regional Medical Center, and it infused me with hope for the future of mankind, even with the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are the tools we need as a society to meet the Covid-19 challenge?  We must have men and women, who find it exciting to create a new working environment for our society.  Those men and women must be able to find the education needed to do such a thing, and that should be our first priority. 

According to FORBES, this is the state our Educational System is in due to Covid-19 restrictions.

www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdepietro/2020/04/30/impact-coronavirus-covid-19-colleges-universities/#264bbbbe61a6

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“COVID-19 has forced all of us to reimagine how we deliver an engaging and holistic learning experience for students. While it presents its challenges, it is also a massive opportunity to break out of old habits and create new, impactful, relevant modes of learning that take advantage of technology and this moment,” said Gaidi Faraj, dean of African Leadership University. “An unintended consequence of this pandemic is that high education will become significantly more accessible as universities think about how to move all of their programming online, including counseling, student life, career development, etc.”

The colleges best positioned to survive the financial challenge may be the urban commuter schools. Living at home while attending schools with limited-sized classes may become a much more palatable option for parents afraid to send their children to live in densely populated campus dorms,” said Gil Gibori, CEO and founder of The House Tutoring Lounge. “A study out of Cornell modeled the effect of limiting the size of their classes on interpersonal interaction, using a sophisticated networking model, and found little effect on their close-knit campus.”

 

“For new students, it’s going to be a mess. I expect that we will see many of the students who were so excited to be accepted a few months ago will either elect to take a gap year. Especially if the school is residential and far enough from home to make it difficult to return if needed,” said John Pryor, founder of Pryor Education Insights. “If local colleges can open with safety measures in place — space between students in classrooms, for instance — they might be seen as a good option for a year while the situation with the virus becomes more definite.”

Over the longer term, the college admissions process next year will be more complex, due to online tests, online schooling, and changes to requirements,” said Venkates Swaminathan, founder and CEO of LifeLaunchr, a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. “Admissions tests will be offered online and at home, and schools will have to adjust to teaching online. All of this will make the admissions process more complex.”

New domestic applications are likely to go down as many students and their parents may no longer be in the position to afford tuition fees because of being laid off, furloughed, unable to pay off loans, needing to dip into their savings, etc.,” said Dr. Mansur Khamitov of the Nanyang Business School at Nanyang Technological University. “On the other hand, history shows that there is a documented tendency for a number of students to go up in recession times as they try to ‘wait it out’ so to speak with a hope that once recession is over, the job market will look much better. In that sense, only the time will truly tell what kind of a long-term impact COVID-19 will have on colleges and universities.”

“Students for whom finances were not a particular concern are now focusing on their state institutions to save money. I think that schools like Harvard and Yale will always be just as selective as they are today, as most families would go to great lengths to make that a financial reality for an admitted student, but schools that are a few notches below in selectivity will see a substantial impact to their applicant pool,” said Colleen Ganjian, a former undergraduate admissions officer and the owner of a college admissions consulting practice, DC College Counseling. “Parents have shifted from considering whether a school is a good fit to asking themselves whether it is ‘worth it’ from a financial perspective. As a result, I think it will be easier to gain admission to many selective private schools, but much harder to get into the highly regarded state institutions.”

Colleges and universities as well as primary and secondary schools have made an enormous shift toward online and virtual courses. While the ability to do this so quickly is impressive, the effects on teaching and learning has been very mixed. Even schools that had a viable online course system in place before the crisis are struggling to adapt to an entirely virtual program.

Faculty and staff transitioned all learning to online and virtual in a very short period of time and this will undoubtedly impact the success and retention of students. If fewer students are successful in their courses and fewer students re-enroll for summer and fall semesters, campuses will see their retention rates and tuition revenues decline,” said Brian Jones, director of admissions at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The requisite change to online learning has been challenging for most colleges, especially those campuses that emphasize an intimate college experience. What’s more, with campus closures, colleges have lost the opportunity to actively engage with potential students through on-campus experiences, such as admitted student days and open houses,” said Nicole Pilar, college counselor with Collegewise. “Sure, a college can mount a ton of webinars, but the fact remains that on-campus events are the most impactful events for students who want to get a visceral feel for a particular campus.”

“Students might enroll in online programs such as Western Governors University or Southern New Hampshire—schools with good track records online, as opposed to residential colleges without as much experience with this method,” said Pryor. “This could also happen with returning students who do not return this year. Some students and families understandably balk at paying high-touch residential college tuition for a low-touch experience.” 

“Given the large number of international students who attend U.S. institutions of higher learning, there are many unknowns as we plan for the fall semester. In the event U.S. embassies and consulates are unable to reopen relatively soon, this will negatively impact the processing of newly admitted international students’ I-20 and visa requests,” said Stacy L. Peazant, academic and research administrator at the University of Florida. “Even if international students are able to participate in fall classes remotely, there will be technological access issues as well as freedom of speech and thought concerns for those citizens of more austere governments.”

“Additionally, due to varying time zone differences, many international students may not be able to participate in remotely offered classes in real time,” Peazant added. “In the event a temporary workaround cannot be offered to international students, higher ed institutions will incur less diverse student populations and deeper financial strain.”

If international students, a population that tends to pay more than domestic students, are unable to come to campus due to visa restrictions, their absence most certainly means lost tuition revenue,” said Pilar. “While some schools might choose to offer a delayed start to those students —second semester or quarter, for example — the students’ ability to return will depend on whether the State Department starts accepting routine visa appointments. And even if they do start accepting appointments, there is no guarantee those students will still choose to come to the U.S.”

Like businesses, colleges and universities are feeling significant pressure on their finances due to the impact of COVID-19. And like so many businesses today, colleges and universities are taking measures in order to weather the storm and come out the other side.

“There are already very noticeable financial ramifications for colleges, staff and students alike and the situation is likely to only get worse for the time being and in the foreseeable future. Most of the colleges are reassessing their financials to only keep essential expenditures, enacting severe cost-cutting and saving measures, or even dipping into their already battered endowment funds,” said Dr. Khamitov. “As a case in point, staff and employees at some colleges like the University of Arizona are already facing confirmed temporary pay cuts and furloughs. While universities and the government are announcing and rolling out relief package measures to support affected students facing financial hardship due to this global pandemic, such measures are not yet widespread or standard.”

“Colleges and universities will first need to determine if they can recover from the financial losses they sustained during the spring semester and anticipate for the summer. There are predictions that some small institutions may need to close or merge, and larger institutions may need to reduce significant numbers of faculty and staff—or at least reduce their pay and benefits,” said Allison Vaillancourt, vice president of organizational effectiveness at Segal, and previously at the University of Arizona as vice president of business affairs and human resources and a professor of practice in the School of Government & Public Policy and Honors College. “Many institutions rely on international students who typically pay full tuition. If they are barred from entering the United States or reluctant to come, many colleges and universities will lose a significant base of tuition support.” 

Something that’s always a hot topic in higher education is student loans and student loan debt. COVID-19 is making itself felt very strongly in the world of credit cards, lines of credit, mortgages and student loans are no exception.

“It is too early to predict implications for student loan debt. However, losses in endowments and operating funds may prompt college and universities to reduce merit and need-based aid, which would drive students to take out larger loans,” said Vaillancourt. “Students who have traditionally relied on on-campus work may have fewer options. Students with outstanding loans who choose not to return to colleges and universities may find themselves challenged to secure the salary levels needed to pay back their debt in a timely manner.”

“One thing students need to remember is that student loans are only deferred for six months from the time a student graduates or stops attending class,” said Robert Farrington, founder of The College Investor. “If their courses were cancelled early, loan deferment will come sooner than it would have had classes ended on their normal schedule.”

“COVID-19 will change the nature of fundraising for many institutions. While the wealthiest donors may not feel financial constraints as much as others, I think there will be a decrease in gifts from alumni and parents who make small gifts to annual funds each year. Those $25 and $100 donations may seem insignificant, but collectively they add up to millions and can account for 5% or more an institution’s annual revenue,” said Emily Weisgrau, president of Weiswood Strategies, with over a decade of experience as staff and a consultant in higher education.

“Additionally, the backlash against large endowments may grow as people perceive that there are billions of dollars available to compensate for the loss in tuition, room, board, annual gifts and other sources of revenue,” said Weisgrau. “This will mean colleges and universities will have to work harder to educate their constituents about how endowments work, why they are not the same as savings or emergency accounts, and what the long-term dangers are of pulling too much money out of them too quickly.”

“New scholarship submissions are declining, which suggests fewer opportunities for students. As in, there are fewer scholarships being offered, not fewer students applying,” said Mike Proctor of BrokerScholar. “A big sector of college and university scholarships is commercial companies that offer scholarships. Due to the impact of COVID-19, commercial companies are cutting their budgets and data shows that private scholarships from commercial organizations are down.”

Andrew DePietro

I’m a finance writer with years of experience covering topics such as taxation, Social Security, entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and housing markets.  My work has appeared on MSN, Yahoo Finance, Fortune, CNBC, CBS, U.S. News and more.

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In conclusion, education is the major challenge society now faces in the brave new world of Covid-19 and beyond.  It is apparent by the successful transition Haywood Regional Medical Center has made, it can be done when the right minds take it to task.

We need educators who are excited to step up and create a new learning environment for today’s students. 

We need our government to offer FREE education to all those, who have the credentials to prove they are serious about their education.

We need our government to take measures now to ensure our infrastructure is fit to stand the load it must accept to support the technological burden now upon us. Without this measure, we are sure to fail.

We are surely now in a brave new world where heroes must step up to meet the challenge that Covid-19 has thrust upon us.  Those heroes must be from all levels and walks of society.  I was especially struck by the chain of departments within the hospital environment which must act in unison with the other to achieve success.  At the base level is the housekeeping staff, who must provide the immaculate environment for the rest of the levels to adhere to.  

Each link in the chain is essential in defeating Covid-19 and in providing the tools necessary to create a new society of excellence.  We must act now with optimism and a massive creative endeavor.