Students are weary of online classes. But colleges can’t say if they’ll open in fall 2020.
College students say they’ll revolt if universities put another semester of classes online to avoid spreading the coronavirus – but that’s increasingly what campus leaders are considering doing.
For Ryan Sessoms, a marketing student at the University of North Florida, the transition to online classes has already been rocky. The thought of paying the same amount of tuition for another semester of lackluster classes is a non-starter. It’s harder to find the motivation to complete his assignments, he said, when not surrounded by his peers.
“Fall is my last semester as well,” said Sessoms, 24. “All my hard work I have put in, I’d prefer to walk across the stage and wrap up some last-minute connections on campus as well.
“If it’s going to be online at the same tuition price, then I’ll just wait for the spring semester.”The college experience so far, she said, has been fantastic, and that’s due to her friends, professors, sports and extracurricular activities on campus. Going online has stripped that away, she said, and her days are now defined by her individual effort.
“Perhaps I am still learning and fulfilling my areas of study,” she said. “But every part of what I love about college has been taken away.”
She said the university could make life easier on students by discounting tuition or increasing scholarships.
The problem: Many colleges are in financial crisis. They need students, with their tuition and housing payments, as much as students need them.
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The reality, though, is no one knows right now what the fall semester will look like, said Terry Hartle, a senior vice president for the American Council for Education, a national trade group of universities.
“The coronavirus will determine when colleges and universities can reopen,” he said. “All colleges and universities want to open normally, but no college knows if it can.”
That’s bad news for universities. As the economic impact of the coronavirus continues mostly unabated, many already have canceled their summer classes and other activities, like alumni gatherings or camps that also generate revenue.