The current virus pandemic has changed every facet of life all over the world and college is no different. This has added additional stress to college students, high school graduates and their families.
In this article, I will go over the key changes in US college education and what you can do to ensure you get on with college on schedule. Though the current times are confusing, there are some things you can take advantage of in the current situation.
Joblessness and Unemployment
About 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment as of April 9th of this year as there have been mass layoffs all across the country since the virus pandemic. Many businesses have closed down operations in the wake of the corona virus lock-downs.
Many parents of college students and students who previously held part-time jobs have also been affected by these layoffs. At this critical juncture, they need all the financial assistance they can get to cope with these difficult times.
So keep your personal finances in order and spend only on essentials such as food and important household supplies. Most other things such as utility payments and credit card payments can be delayed or postponed by contacting the respective companies in advance.
Postponement of Student Loan Payments
Millions of borrowers have been informed that their federal student loan payments are postponed until Sept 30th of 2020 due to the current pandemic and the resulting economic hardships that most families are undergoing.
So there is no need for you to worry about paying your student loans at this time. All payments are on hold and you will not be charged any interest during this time, nor will there be any penalties for non-payment of your federal student loans during these times.
Private lenders are also being greatly encouraged to go easy on the payment schedules for student loans and many of them are starting to do so. If you have a student loan from a private lender, now is a good time to ask them for holding off on the monthly payments during the Covid-related crises.
Is College Still Worth It?
Many parents and students are questioning what the cost of a college education is in today’s terms. Apart from the reduced job prospects, even health and safety in a college campus is to be questioned during the current times. There is also a strong possibility of recession which appears to have already begun.
Despite these grim changes, most people still consider college to be essential. But what has changed now is that people expect college to be a lot more affordable without paying for all the on-campus facilities and infrastructure.
Out-of-state, In-state or Local
More high school graduates are considering local colleges that are closer to home and some are also considering the possibility of college while living at home with their parents.
These steps will not only reduce your family’s financial burden at this time but will also help to protect your health and safety under the current circumstances. Since you will not have to pay for your living expenses in a campus dorm or private housing near college, your living expenses during college will be greatly reduced.
Online vs. Classes-on-Campus
Many college campuses have closed and students in the dorms have been asked to leave for home at the earliest. Most classes have moved online both at schools and colleges all over the country, just as in the rest of the world.
A number of colleges have also refunded students for their dorm expenses and their college meal plans for the current and upcoming semesters.
Cost of College Education
The cost of a traditional college education is extremely high in the United States. Most kids and their families fund college education with scholarships or student loans. With such high costs, it is almost impossible for most families to entirely pay for the kids’ college education and related expenses.
Some innovative youngsters have found a way to study for free or a very low tuition in Europe. But with the current threat of the pandemic, most people prefer staying close to home or even at home for college.
Any Reduction in College Tuition?
Many colleges across the United States have sent students home and also refunded their dorm and meal plan expenses for the coming semesters. Students and families are also rallying for a reduction in college tuition since the online classes are much more affordable to administer than on-campus classes and other campus facilities.
Some colleges have rightfully reduced their fees for the coming semester but this is currently done on a case-by-case basis by individual colleges and universities. Check with your college or prospective colleges for information on tuition fee reductions this year.
AP and Other Exams
The College Board has announced that the AP (Advanced Placement) exams will not be conducted in-person this year. The entire exam has moved online, will take only 45 minutes to complete and can be taken from the comfort of your home.
TOEFL exams worldwide have also moved online and students can take them online, and from home in any part of the world.
Courses for AP exam preparation have successfully moved online and millions of students have started attending these classes. You can find the full listing of virtual AP courses here.
SAT exams have been canceled for March and May and students will need to wait and see when these tests will be offered again once the pandemic subsides.
CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exams have not been canceled by the college board but it is left to the discretion of the individual test centers to decide whether they will still administer the exams or close the test center entirely. Nevertheless, all test centers are urged to take the CDC’s (Center for disease control’s) advice in this matter.
Guidance has been provided for CLEP individual test centers on how to safely administer the CLEP test if they are able to continue proctoring these exams. More information on available CLEP test centers can be found here.
Changes in Grading
Each college is going through its own process of how to evaluate performance in online classes and tests. Some are treating online tests as on par with the in-class ones, whereas others are treating them as a pass/ fail and without any letter grades assigned. Students are also urged to continue their studies online and to stay focused and on-schedule with their online courses and requirements.
Since the SAT exams in the recent months have been canceled, many colleges are removing the SAT requirement for their college admissions this year. This is good news for many students who will be unable to sit for the SAT exams.
Admission requirements are also expected to be less rigorous as colleges understand that this is a difficult time for both the students and their families.
In the current situation, the best place for students to be right now is at home with their families. There are also a number of flexible colleges we’ve mentioned in earlier posts that routinely conduct online courses for most of the degree requirements. These college are also highly affordable and it is possible to get your current college credits transferred to one of these colleges to smoothly transition into their online and distance degree programs.
Alternately, new high school graduates can choose a low-cost college that is not more than a handful of miles from home and which also provides many online courses in response to the current pandemic issues.
College Close to Home/ Completely Online
If you want to choose a college which has a long history of online and distance learning and which can easily transfer in your previous college credits from elsewhere, look no further than the flexible colleges we’ve recommended in earlier posts. Most of these colleges also provide a long list of online college courses that you can take.
These flexible colleges also give you the opportunity to take any college courses that are close to home and then transfer in those college credits into their respective degree programs.
The main motto of the flexible college is that “Knowledge and learning acquired is more important than how or where you acquired it from”. So it helps to make use of the flexibility in college education that these flexible colleges have to offer.
Your Approach Towards Online Learning
As more college classes continue to move online, it has become important for kids to be able to study well online. Though some families are unsure about online learning, in reality, online learning is quite advanced nowadays and the number of online study resources has grown considerably in the last ten or more years.
Kids are also quite familiar with social media, Wikipedia or Google and therefore, they can easily adapt to online instruction. As long as kids have the discipline and focus, they can easily study online and maintain good grades. The online learning platforms can also assist students with their study schedules by recommending and encouraging weekly learning targets and so on.
Parents can also play a helpful role by reminding their kids to continue their online learning. It might also help for parents to stay involved in the subject matter of their kid’s learning. Parents can provide further guidance and support to their kids with their college studies if needed.
Focus on MORE Online Sources of College Credits
Pay close attention to all the online sources of college-level learning. Some notable sources for earning college credits online include:
Insulate Yourself from The Pandemic Upheaval
We all know that these are difficult times for everyone. So self-care and taking care of loved ones is of utmost importance at this time.
Here are additional suggestions for staying on target with your college studies:
1) Continue your studies online but take occasional breaks as well.
2) Eat and drink healthy and follow indoor exercise routines to stay fit.
3) Communicate with your college (or prospective colleges) and course providers either by email or on the phone for guidance on your college studies.
4) Keep in touch with fellow students via online forums, emails or chats as and when required.
5) Maintain social contact with family and friends at home or online or on the phone whenever you feel the need to.
6) Keep in touch with your college student advisors by phone, email or online chat as you begin to enroll in online college-level courses.