Page 6 - BusinessWest April 27, 2020
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 6 APRIL 27, 2020 COVID-19 SPECIAL COVERAGE BusinessWest
  Hard Lessons
With Campuses Quiet, College Leaders Ponder the Future
‘Extraordinary.’ That’s how one area college president described the massive shift to online learning that colleges and universities nationwide were forced to undertake back in March. And he’s right. But these are extraordinary times — and beyond the questions about when students can safety return to campus, and concerns about declining enrollment and revenues going forward, are a series of equally extraordinary conversations about what higher education
Bmight look like on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, and why.
By Joseph Bednar them with those concerns.”
Dumay said Elms leaders are preparing for all contingencies when
ack in March, when colleges and universities every- it comes to how and where summer and fall classes will be delivered, where began sending students home, the obvious though it seems likely that at least the initial summer sessions, starting question was, ‘when will they come back?’ in May, will have to be remote.
That’s still the question — or, more accurately, one of “What’s less certain is what will happen in the fall. A number of fac- many, many pressing questions. tors go into making this decision, beginning, of course, with when it’s
Here’s another one: when students do eventually come safe for our students, safe for our employees and faculty, and safe for the back, how many will not? At a time when enrollment is already declin- general public,” he noted, adding that Elms leadership constantly tracks ing nationally, mainly due to smaller high-school graduating classes, the guidelines it receives from the Massachusetts Department of Public
some trade groups, like the American Council on Education, are predict- ing a national enrollment drop of 15% this fall, higher for international students.
“On one hand, it could be anxiety about students returning to the campus environment or students wanting to take a pause and see
how things are going,” said Harry Dumay president of Elms College. “Then, their financial circumstances might make it difficult for them — although, with the stimulus funds, we are working with families to help
Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will not reopen the campus if doing so would provide an opportunity for the pandemic to spike, even if the curve is starting to flatten now.
Working in Elms’ favor, he noted, is the fact that it draws mainly from the Greater Springfield region, and in this current environment, gradu- ating high-school seniors, whether in 2020 or 2021, and their families might prefer to choose a college closer to home.
“Those are discussions seniors and their parents are making around

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