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Highlights from Higher Ed: First-generation Student Struggles, the Elusive “Magic” of College and Re-opening Plans

First-generation college students face greater challenges due to COVID-19

Students whose parents did not attend college — a.k.a. “first-generation” students — have experienced greater difficulties during the pandemic than other students and were “more likely than other students to see their college careers disrupted in three key ways.” Generally speaking, they have experienced more serious financial hardships, less safe home environments and more online learning challenges. Overall, 57% of first-generation students described themselves as “as low-income, poor or working-class,” compared with 12% of those with parents who attended college. In addition, they reported being “more likely to lose wages from on- or off-campus jobs while also having to contend with increased living and technology expenses.” More than twice as many (15% vs. 7%) have had to care for children during the pandemic. Eighteen percent had to care for adults, compared with 12% of other students.

Source: University Business.

Only 2% of students experience the “magic” of college

The “magic” of attending college can be defined by six experiences that “that double a graduate’s odds of being engaged in their work and thriving in their overall wellbeing throughout their lifetime,” according to a recent study. Unfortunately, only 2% of those who enroll in a bachelor’s degree program ever feel that magic. The six experiences that create college magic result allow students to say: “I had at least one professor who made me excited about learning;” “My professors cared about me as a person;” “I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams;” “I worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete;” “I had an internship or job that allowed me to apply what I was learning in the classroom;” and “I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations.” Twenty-five percent of graduates with bachelor’s degrees “never hit the mark on any of them while another 23% hit the mark on just one.”

Source: Forbes.

Even before the pandemic, more than 500 colleges and universities showed financial “warning signs”

Hundreds of colleges and universities were in potentially serious financial trouble even before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, due in large part to having grappled with “declining enrollments and weakening support from state governments” during the past decade. That was the conclusion of researchers who “put the nation’s public institutions and four-year nonprofit colleges and universities through a financial stress test, examining key metrics including enrollment, tuition revenue, public funding and endowment health.” More than 500 institutions exhibited “warning signs” in at least two of those areas. “The problems were not evenly spread among states. Combined, Ohio and Illinois have more than 10% of all the institutions potentially facing trouble. Ohio has 36 institutions with two or more warning signs. Illinois has 26.” Overall all, almost 30% of four-year colleges and universities brought in less tuition revenue per student in 2017-18 than in 2009-10.

Source: The Hechinger Report.

As of late summer, nearly one in four schools were still undecided about re-opening plans

With just over a week remaining in August, 24% of colleges and universities still had not finalized their plans to re-open for the fall semester, according to a survey of nearly 3,000 institutions. Just 2.5% planned to offer in-person classes only, while 6% expected to operate in a fully online environment. The plurality of responding schools (27%) expected to be primarily online, while 20% planned to offer primarily in-person classes. Fifteen percent were planning for a hybrid semester. “But that doesn’t tell the full story. Two-year colleges, for instance, are much more likely than four-year colleges to be planning an online fall. Statewide decisions, regional differences and COVID-19 case counts also appear to play a role.”

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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