Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • (pleasant mallet percussion music)

  • - [Alexander] The coronavirus has upended the world

  • of higher education.

  • In March, students were abruptly sent home,

  • classes were moved online.

  • Now, as campuses across the country sit empty,

  • administrators are scrambling

  • to prepare for what comes next.

  • - In many ways, the attack that COVID represents

  • to higher education is a really straightforward assault

  • on the bottom line.

  • - The financial challenges are severe.

  • I mean, I won't kid you, they're profoundly challenging.

  • - There will be more bankruptcies, more business failures,

  • more need to federal and state bailouts.

  • - [Alexander] The pandemic has thrown the budgets

  • of public and private colleges into turmoil.

  • Since the lockdowns went into effect,

  • they have seen their revenues drop and their expenses climb.

  • - And I think, yeah, more than belt-tightening,

  • this may be something like reconstructive surgery

  • if not actually thoracic surgery.

  • - [Alexander] With all education now virtual,

  • e-learning is having a moment.

  • When students were sent home mid-semester,

  • American higher ed began what was essentially

  • a nationwide experiment.

  • In the space of three weeks,

  • all learning was moved from the classroom to the internet.

  • This has accelerated the trend towards online education

  • and raised more fundamental questions

  • about the value of a college degree.

  • - College students suing Drexel University,

  • the University of Miami and others

  • saying online learning is no replacement

  • for a bricks and mortar on-campus experience.

  • - What will be the lasting legacy of COVID-19

  • for higher education?

  • Could this virus lead to a wave

  • of college and university closures?

  • Will the classroom we once knew gradually return

  • or could COVID permanently transform how we learn?

  • - Hello.

  • - Hey, Bryan.

  • To help answer these questions,

  • I spoke to Bryan Alexander, a higher education futurist.

  • As his title suggest, Alexander spends a lot of time

  • contemplating what might happen

  • in the higher education space.

  • In a passage included in his 2020 book,

  • Alexander suggested the possibility

  • of a global pandemic transforming the industry.

  • - I wrote the chapter in 2018, 2019,

  • and I'm afraid it is chillingly prescient.

  • - [Alexander] But how do you imagine a post-COVID future

  • when so little is known about COVID itself?

  • With so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic,

  • Alexander believes it's impossible to divine

  • any one outcome.

  • Instead he sees three potential paths

  • for the future of higher education.

  • - One is that we could be

  • in the middle of a short plague,

  • that is, something which burns out relatively quickly,

  • that perhaps a month from now,

  • we are very, very far down the downhill side

  • and that, come August and September,

  • we'll be in good shape and colleges and universities

  • can open their physical doors

  • to welcome face-to-face students again.

  • A second possibility is that the pandemic

  • will extend through December into 2021.

  • In that case, then we have to think about higher education

  • being virtual throughout the entire fall semester.

  • - [Alexander] Recently,

  • the California State University system

  • announced that it would be canceling

  • most in-person classes in the fall

  • and will instead hold them online.

  • This is significant because the Cal State system

  • is the largest four-year university system in the country.

  • The system is also one of the most diverse in the country,

  • with 1/3 of undergraduates the first in their families

  • to attend college.

  • One of those is Ana Ruth Bertolazzi,

  • a senior at San Francisco State University.

  • - As a single parent, my son, he's a seventh-grader,

  • soon now close to be eighth-grader,

  • it was a challenge.

  • - [Alexander] Like many students,

  • one challenge Ana has faced are class disruptions

  • due to a slow internet connection.

  • - There are moments when, if I ask a question

  • to my Zoom class professor,

  • either my voice is not even projecting or it stops.

  • - [Alexander] Students like Ana would also be impacted

  • by Alexander's third forecast.

  • - A third possibility is that,

  • instead of having a simple pandemic, short or long,

  • that we'll have something more complicated

  • with multiple waves.

  • For academia, I dub this the toggle term.

  • This is when a campus will have to switch back and forth

  • between face-to-face instruction

  • and wholly online instruction.

  • - [Alexander] Each of these scenarios would be costly.

  • Even in the best forecast, where the pandemic is shorter

  • and campuses reopen in the fall, there's no guarantee

  • that all students and faculty will return.

  • That means smaller classes and less revenue for schools.

  • If the fall semester is online,

  • Alexander expects the financial hit to be even more severe

  • as more students demand tuition breaks.

  • - We have about 4,400 colleges and universities

  • in the U.S. all told, and I could see easily 10%

  • staring into the abyss this time next year.

  • What worries me are, first of all,

  • private colleges and universities

  • that, you know, therefore lack any state support,

  • but that are not the most highly ranked,

  • the lower ranked and the medium ranked ones.

  • - [Alexander] Dominican University is a small,

  • private liberal arts college

  • located in San Rafael, California.

  • - We know we're gonna have some financial hits.

  • We know we'll have to make some adjustments to get there,

  • but we know where we're headed,

  • and we're really reasonably well-positioned to manage this.

  • The place where Dominican is not as well-positioned,

  • and it's true of many, many small colleges,

  • is we don't have deep pockets.

  • You know, we have a really small endowment.

  • - [Alexander] But small private schools

  • aren't the only ones at risk.

  • Some state universities are in trouble as well.

  • - I'm also concerned about public university systems

  • that are facing similar problems.

  • For example, you think about Pennsylvania.

  • - [Alexander] One of the public systems at risk

  • is Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education,

  • which is made up of 14

  • state-owned colleges and universities.

  • - The challenges of higher education,

  • public higher education generally,

  • they're pretty acutely concentrated here.

  • Obviously, a historic pattern of declining public investment

  • has forced universities to increase tuition

  • and actually net average price overall,

  • so those challenges sort of have combined

  • in our system to produce the 20% enrollment decrease

  • since 2010, between 2010 and 2019,

  • and obviously, as our enrollments go down,

  • we're in an enrollment-driven industry,

  • and as a consequence, our revenues have declined as well.

  • - [Alexander] If there is one consensus in higher ed,

  • it's that online education is here to stay

  • and that it will only grow in importance.

  • One company that is uniquely positioned

  • to understand this trend is Chegg.

  • Chegg provides online services

  • for about 60% of American college students.

  • - When I went to college many, many years ago,

  • my Intro to Business courses were 300-person lectures

  • in a giant auditorium.

  • Not only are those potentially dangerous right now,

  • but the reality is, those lend themselves very, very well

  • to online learning.

  • - [Alexander] Last semester, schools were forced online

  • out of necessity, but the reality is,

  • for many students, necessity may keep them there.

  • - We have to imagine that many, many families

  • are seeing their savings and investments put into chaos,

  • those who have those,

  • some of them are being hit economically

  • by unemployment or underemployment.

  • Some of them additionally are being hit by disease.

  • - Like a lot of things right now,

  • what you're seeing is an acceleration.

  • There's already been a movement of lots of people

  • questioning the ROI of going in for a four-year degree

  • that, all-in, may cost 250 or $300,000

  • for people, while they're also not working

  • and getting a job that entire time.

  • - [Alexander] More students online means less revenue

  • for schools, but Bryan Alexander is optimistic

  • that the industry will get creative

  • and adapt to students' needs.

  • - Well, for looking at the fall,

  • and if either of my scenarios come to pass,

  • either the toggle term or the long plague

  • and faculty and staff have to prepare

  • for a full semester online,

  • now we have months, not weeks,

  • we have months to plan, prepare,

  • shape, and hone the experience.

  • (pleasant ambient music)

(pleasant mallet percussion music)

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 US WSJ alexander higher education education online semester

How the Pandemic Could Transform Higher Ed | WSJ

  • 13 1
    joey joey posted on 2021/05/31
Video vocabulary