By Evie Shaye Herndon
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our world. Financially, physically,
mentally, socially, you name it and COVID has changed it in some way. However, one significant area that has been vastly altered due to the virus is education, specifically higher education.
I am certain all of our student readers pursuing a higher education degree can attest when I claim that the pandemic has seriously changed the average college experience. Looking back at the introduction of the virus, schools went from meeting on campus like normal to sending thousands of students home mid-semester due to the virus.
I personally was affected by this. In fact, I was taking a sculpting / 3D art class the semester Covid came to the states. The class, like every other class on campus, was abruptly moved online. Now, as you can imagine this was more challenging than normal because it was a sculpting class. It required very specific materials. I am talking about clay, sculpting tools, a furnace, etc. How in the world were we going to continue this class virtually? Well, the answer is we really didn’t. Our professor had no choice but to completely alter the syllabus and the projects we had to complete for the course. We essentially paid for a sculpting class without actually sculpting. Now, I do not blame the school for the alterations nor am I upset we moved online. These were necessary precautions and something the school, like everyone else, could not predict.
However, the pandemic has been around for a year now and higher education is still mainly online or still enforcing serious social distancing. While I personally have no issue with the precaution continuing, and support them 100%, I do think it is understandable for students to be a little frustrated with the current state and the future state of higher education. Speaking from experience, I feel as though I am paying for a degree and not actually getting the experience I expected. It’s like we all bought front row seats to a world-famous show to find out that we actually have to watch it in the backroom on a TV.
In fact, there are predictions that the future of higher education is going to be completely online. This is not shocking after the year we just had because the pandemic actually revealed a better, cheaper way to educate. Thus, the world of living on campus and going to classes will become obsolete and more students will get their degrees from their couches.
The problem is, while the college experience is fading, it has been predicted that tuition will be rising. It was reported by the CEO of Cengage in a Forbes article that “when it comes to higher education institutions, the pandemic has had — and will continue to have — a drastic financial impact. Institutions are suffering from lost revenue to partial tuition refunds, room, and board, fees, etc."
Universities and colleges have lost and are losing money at a rapid pace. Thus, it is not illogical to assume that in order to compensate for the loss of revenue, colleges will have to raise tuition. Schools will need to cut costs and increase income and overall the best way to do that is by raising the tuition.
Although this has yet to become completely official, it is still cause for concern. Tuition nationwide was already unbelievably high pre-COVID and caused many students to go into severe debt to pay for school. In fact, it was reported in an article on Marketplace that 70% of students have to take out student loans during their time at University, and the average student graduates with nearly $30,000 in debt. It is also stated in an article on Education Date that student loan debt in the United States totals $1.71 trillion and grows 6 times faster than the nation’s economy. In case you didn't already know, that is very bad. So, when we hear there is a chance tuition will rise, we should have some cause for concern.
Although only a few institutions have been reported to increase their tuition at this point, I want to encourage students to be aware of the possibility. In the continuing wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, higher education will continue to take a sharp turn into new territory. Only time will tell whether that turn is actually leading to a downhill slope and I advise all students to pay attention to where higher education is headed. Take caution as times change because it is unfair for tuition to rise while the college experience decreases.