News coming out of other higher education institutions is interesting for our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are looking at how universities have dealt with campus housing issues and changing recruitment tactics in the wake of the pandemic.
Life on Campus amid the Pandemic
A number of colleges and universities across the United States allowed students to stay in campus housing even after instruction moved online in Spring 2020. For example, California State Universities opted to maintain in operation housing and dining facilities for vulnerable students (homeless, foster, unsafe home environments) or international students with visa issues. With each individual university in the state system assessing the specific needs of their student body, CSUs did a great job in humanizing the fear that everyone experienced with the spread of the pandemic. However, other higher education institutions have not provided a similar level of support. The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, for example, has left many vulnerable students in tough situations, as explained here. A student from Tanzania worried about the lack of internet access and the seven-hour time change was denied an opportunity to remain on campus. Several low-income, first generation students have reported similar stories. While the universities’ decisions to close dormitories is seen as an attempt to reduce risk and combat the contagion, it is clear that these policy decisions have placed undue burdens on vulnerable students. Will the disparity in how universities responded to the pandemic, affect how future students might make decisions about school choice? Or will we as a society, forget this pandemic and continue to choose what is best for us? Time will tell.
Changing Tactics to Recruit Students
Some higher education institutions have begun to release plans regarding the opening of the fall semester. In fact, in-person instruction is being framed as a competitive strategy to recruit incoming students. Graduating high school seniors are being targeted with a host of new incentives intended to sway their opinion. The Washington Post reports colleges are offering potential incoming students perks such as free parking, early registration, and free food to get them to enroll. These tactics are a result of the fear that fewer students will enroll in the fall, leaving higher education institutions in financial limbo. These added perks to admission are intended to target students in more precarious financial situations. However, they are less likely to reap the actual rewards, the Washington Post says. These discounts are more likely to benefit students with parents and academic counselors who know how to take advantage of these opportunities–at the expense of low income, first-generation students who have a greater need.