Temporary Higher Ed Changes Could have Positive & Lasting Effects for US Students

In 2019, there were 1,095,299 international students studying in the United States – which is roughly 5.5% of the US higher education system. In 2019 alone, International students contributed almost $45 billion to the US economy.

With Federal financial aid mainly being available for US citizens, colleges and universities are not only worried about missing out on funding, but they’re also concerned about enrollment for the upcoming semesters.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, International students have returned to their home countries, and until this pandemic is under control, they will not be able to return to the US.

To help keep enrollment up and hopefully keep their institutions funded, the higher education system is having to get creative when it comes to attracting students both domestically and internationally.

This creativity could actually benefit US students enrolling in the 2020-2021 semester.

College Acceptance

Before the coronavirus pandemic, colleges were already struggling to meet attendance rate requirements. Colleges and universities typically known for having long waitlists saw a rise in acceptance letters and a drop in the number of waitlisted students.

This year, with travel restrictions, many colleges such as Duke and MIT expect to lose out on International applicants. The loss of those students means they will need to send out more acceptance letters to reach their enrollment numbers.

Many schools are even extending acceptance dates, which means students will have more time to decide which school they want to attend and compare financial aid packages.

More time to consider their options could be good news for US students, who will now have a better chance of being accepted into their dream schools.

Waiving Standardized Testing Requirements

Some colleges and universities are making standardized test scores an optional part of the admissions process, as SAT and ACT tests are canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For students, waiving this requirement can open their options to colleges and universities they may not have considered otherwise. Although this can be an opportunity for some, students aren’t being encouraged to apply to schools where they may not thrive.

Financial Aid Incentives

Amidst campus closures, colleges and students had to adapt to online programming quickly. Due to these changes, some students are considering staying closer to home for the upcoming semester. 

With an online class model, students will be able to consider other, potentially more affordable colleges to continue their education. 

In turn, college and universities are realizing that student options are growing, and are trying to incentivize students to return to, or enroll in, their institutions. 

Schools like the University of Denver are catching on and guaranteeing new students $15,000 in scholarships to enroll in their online MBA program.

On March 25, 2020, congress reviewed a bipartisan stimulus package expected to allocate over $1 billion in financial aid to schools that serve minority, low-income, and first-generation students.

The stimulus package could mean more financial aid awards colleges can use to incentivize students. The package has yet to be fully approved, so it’s important to follow up for more information with a trusted news source.

Lower interest rates on student loans

In a stimulus package approved on March 27, 2020, it was announced that student loan interest would be waived until September 2020.

Given this announcement and the current conditions of the stock market, many experts believe that student loan interest rates could drop.

The current average rate for an undergraduate Stafford loan is 4.5%, but financial analysts have stated they could drop below 2% for the first time ever.

Schedule & Course Flexibility

Many colleges have had to quickly adapt to online courses due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This has allowed students to continue with their courses, retain their aid, and not lose their academic progress.

While some colleges may not have had a large variety of online courses offered, most schools quickly flipped the switch to make the change. Now, they are learning to streamline the online model and understanding how well it works for the educational institution.

Because of this, schools may have more flexibility moving forward – offering classes online that weren’t previously available. In turn, this could grant more flexibility for student schedules and living situations.

COVID-19 is changing the status quo for many Americans in ways we didn’t anticipate. For colleges and universities, this means finding value in areas they hadn’t previously invested time, money, or resources in (such as online learning and furthering financial incentives). 

These small and seemingly temporary changes could have a permanent impact on our institutions in the future. And likely, for the better.