Highlights from Higher Ed: Free Tuition in California and More on the Pandemic

RJ Nichol
Mar 20, 2020

Education Department eases rules to accommodate colleges and universities during coronavirus crisis

The federal Education Department has signaled that it plans to give colleges and universities “flexibility to adjust calendars and course schedules to accommodate students who cannot meet enrollment requirements or complete internships or study abroad programs.” It will also permit schools to maintain work-study and Pell grant eligibility for students who are no longer able to attend in-person courses as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. The number of schools that are replacing in-person classes with remote instruction is growing daily, and several institutions have already announced that in-person classes will not resume this semester. One issue that has not yet been addressed concerns the “five-month rule,” which stipulates that foreign students who leave the United States for more than five months need to re-enroll in the visa program before returning. The president of the American Council on Education was quoted as saying, “It isn’t an exaggeration to say that [Coronavirus] is the biggest shock to the higher education system in a generation.”

Source: The New York Times

The University of Southern California will offer free tuition for families earning less than $80,000

Free college still remains a dream for most Americans, but beginning in the Fall 2020 semester the University of Southern California (USC) will make it a reality for members of families earning less than $80,000. Home ownership will not be a factor in financial-need calculations. “We are committed to increasing USC’s population of innovators, leaders and creators regardless of their financial circumstances,” the school’s President said. “Investing in the talent and diversity of our student body is essential to our educational mission.” USC also plans to increase the amount of financial aid it provides to undergrads by $30 million annually, which will benefit more than 4,000 students every year. Two-thirds of the school’s undergraduates currently receive financial aid, and more than 21% are from low-income families.

Source: USC News

The College Board and ACT cancel some tests, reschedule others

College students aren’t the only ones facing uncertainty about their educational future these days. High school students who had planned to take standardized college admissions tests are now being forced to put those plans on hold due to the cancellation and rescheduling of The College Board’s SAT and ACT’s eponymous entrance exam. Although The College Board administered its March 14 exam, many test sites opted to close rather than host students. Make-up tests that were scheduled for March 28 have since been cancelled, as have the tests that had been scheduled for May 2, “in response to the rapidly evolving situation around the Coronavirus (COVID-19).” Students who were supposed to sit for the SAT on these dates will get their fees back. So far, the June 6 SAT has not been cancelled. ACT’s April 4 exams have been rescheduled for June 13.

Source: Inside Higher Ed

Credit rating agency issues warning about pandemic-related financial threats facing higher ed institutions

It’s not exactly surprising news, but Fitch Ratings — one of the “big three” credit rating agencies in the United States —  has issued a report noting that “U.S. colleges and universities could face new pressures on their operations as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the country.” Uncertainty about the enrollment of domestic and international students and the closing of campuses are the top concerns, especially in light of the fact that “revenue and operating pressures will build the longer campuses are shut down.” The loss of income from “auxiliary services such as dining, housing and parking” could add to the problem. Fitch also pointed out that some students may change their college decisions in order to stay closer to home.

Source: Education Dive

RJ Nichol

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