Page 8 - BusinessWest April 27, 2020
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  dent’s chair. Specifically, how can higher educa- tion, with its ever-spiraling costs, better reach and serve the majority of Americans, including those in lower income strata?
“I think the model and the cost are definitely areas that will change in the future, and the COVID crisis has forced all of us to look internally at how to begin to address those two issues,” she said.
With that, she raised perhaps the most intrigu-
“That creates a lot of extra stress with students — ‘I’m losing my job and trying to figure out how to take classes online.’ We’ve had to spend a lot of time helping students through that.”
ing question of all — how will higher education look when it emerges on the other side of the pandemic, and students do return to campus? Because most in this critical industry — and all four area presidents BusinessWest spoke with for this story — don’t believe it’s going to be status quo.
Digital Dilemma
Before considering those questions, John Cook took a moment to appreciate what a momentous challenge it has been for an entire nation’s higher- education system to go online with very little preparation.
“It’s been extraordinary for higher education, and certainly at STCC, to make such a compre- hensive change,” said Cook, president of Spring- field Technical Community College. He explained that the college, like most others in Western Mass., was fortunate to be able to leverage spring break to transition to distance learning.
Christina Royal, president of Holyoke Com- munity College (HCC), said it was a challenge to help 4,500 students, many of whom had never experienced online learning, to become familiar with all the technology, software, and scheduling. At the same time, many students were losing their jobs — for example, in restaurants and hospitality — and exacerbating issues of food and housing insecurity among lower-income students.
“That creates a lot of extra stress with students — ‘I’m losing my job and trying to figure out how to take classes online.’ We’ve had to spend a lot
of time helping students through that,” she said, adding that HCC has hooked students up with Chromebooks and other equipment as needed. “I’ve done several town-hall meetings with faculty and staff, and meetings with students, to answer their questions and validate their feelings and acknowledge the uncertainty they’re feeling.”
Dumay was similarly thankful for the spring-
John Cook says STCC is modeling fall enrollment forecasts and developing budget options that consider all contingencies.
break cushion that gave professors extra time to adapt their courses to the online environment.
“The faculty were amazing, and they turned it around,” he said. “The courses are being delivered in different ways — some are using live Zoom ses- sions, some are using asynchronous Zoom ses- sions, and some used narrated PowerPoint deliv-
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