When evaluating how they reopened their campuses this fall amid coronavirus, most colleges and universities acknowledge that they have not earned high marks, according to a new Kaplan survey of admissions officers at over 300 institutions of higher learning across the United States*. When asked to give a grade to their industry’s ‘reopening’ performance as a whole, taking into account factors like implementing new safety precautions, delivering courses, and communicating with students and parents, only 4 percent gave an A; 36 percent gave a B; 51 percent, a C; 9 percent, a D; and 1 percent, an F.
The survey, which spanned two weeks from mid to late September, was conducted amid reports of coronavirus outbreaks at several large universities across the country. It came at the same time when some schools, which had decided to conduct classes in-person, did an about face and instead moved to strictly online.
Admissions officers who gave reopening a poor grade shared the following anecdotes and opinions:
"Both parents and students wanted to come back to campus. The schools that went online only tended to have huge endowments or other financial support. Schools did the best they could in the environment they are in and the lack of strong leadership at the national level made it almost impossible for any school to open well."
"I think that too many tried to reopen in person without enough safety precautions in place. Too many students got sick, and then if those universities closed and switched to online, then those students potentially spread the virus even more when they moved back home."
"Very few schools did this well...The ‘waffling’ by most institutions did nothing but create confusion and anxiety with students and parents."
"A majority of the reopening plans that have been implemented were based on the idea that college students will suddenly stop acting like college students. Expecting students to sit in their dorms and not try to be social at all (whether on or off campus) was not realistic. Also testing plans were not thought out well at all. Some schools have not made access to testing easy, whether it be charging students for testing or threatening disciplinary action if students have a positive test. In some cases on our campus, students do not feel that they can reach out for health services and other support without having a 'COVID witch hunt' come after them."
Admissions officers who awarded above average scores shared the following:
"I know that great amounts of time and attention were given to reopening steps by most institutions, and only a few have experienced high numbers of COVID-19 infections after reopening. The safety steps for most schools are extensive."
"I think many colleges and universities reopened in accordance with state guidelines. In my experience, universities also developed internal steering committees and COVID-19 response teams that evaluated all factors at play in reopening. Often these review committees and standards of reopening were more cautionary than the state's phased return plan."
"Students should have access to in person study and an in person community during their college years. I believe we can do this even amidst a global pandemic. Colleges have taken the necessary procedures to mitigate the spread while students are on campus."
"It is the first time for all of us. I would be less lenient come fall 2021."
"We know how challenging a time this has been for everyone on the higher education landscape, from administrators to health officials, to faculty and staff, to students, to parents, and everyone else that is part of a college community. To say that the past six months have been ‘unprecedented’ would be an understatement. What college admissions officers are telling us in this survey is that there is a lot of room for improvement in multiple areas, from education delivery, to communication, to safety procedures. We think this self-awareness is positive, and many shared plans on how they’ll be making improvements in the coming weeks and months. Fundamentally, they all understand that safety comes first," said Isaac Botier, executive director of college admissions programs, Kaplan.
Kaplan will release additional findings from its 2020 college admissions officers survey over the coming months. Issues explored include the Black Lives Matter movement and the role social media plays in the admissions process. Kaplan has conducted this survey every year since 2005 to ensure that parents and students get the most accurate and up-to-date information on the issues that impact them most.
For more information about Kaplan’s survey, contact Russell Schaffer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 917.822.8190.
*301 admissions officers from the nation’s top national, regional and liberal arts colleges and universities – as compiled from U.S. News & World Report – were polled by e-mail between September 16 and September 29, 2020. Percentages are rolled up to the nearest whole number.
Kaplan is a global educational services company that provides individuals, universities, and businesses with a diverse array of services, including higher and professional education, test preparation, language training, corporate and leadership training, and student recruitment, online enablement and other university support services. With operations in nearly 30 countries, Kaplan serves nearly 1.1 million students each year and has partnerships with 2,000-plus universities, colleges, and schools/school districts, and more than 4,000 businesses globally. Kaplan is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC). For more information, please visit www.kaptest.com.
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