As college campuses across the country remain closed amid social distancing orders, graduating high school seniors and their families are stuck with a difficult question: Is college worth the price if classes are online? In turn, the American Council on Education predicts that fall enrollment could decrease by 15 percent or more, leaving colleges and universities with an estimated $23 billion in lost tuition. David Klein, CEO and co-founder of CommonBond, a finance company that specializes in affordable student loans, explains that there may, in fact, be a silver lining here — pressure to enroll students could force universities to address the college tuition crisis that existed long before the coronavirus.
DAVID KLEIN: This is a really ambiguous time for high school seniors. In years past, high school seniors think they're going to college in the fall, and they're about to start an amazing experience of the college life. The problem now is that nobody really knows whether that's going to happen or not. We could see a drop in enrollment as high as 20%, 30%. And it would put a lot of colleges and universities in a financial hole that they'd have to figure out how to get out of.
- With remote learning, cash-strapped students are wondering if they're getting the education that they paid for.
- Students are quickly learning that online college is just not as good as the real thing.
- An entire nation has just been shown that it's possible to deliver higher education in an entirely different way.
- Some 40% of parents in the US are considering delaying college for their college-bound high school seniors.
DAVID KLEIN: Pre-COVID, we already had a college tuition crisis. A potential silver lining here is to get to some of those solutions faster than we otherwise would have, because the pressure to do something about tuition that's just so high relative to just online-only classes is likely going to reach a tipping point where something has to be done. And there are a few things that we can do.
If you created a system where colleges and universities felt more responsibility for things like job placement, salaries, you'd see a difference in one of two things. You'd either see a decrease in tuition to ensure that colleges and universities weren't over-indebting their students upon graduation, or what you'd see is that college and universities are going to be working with local communities and corporate America to make sure that there are clear pathways for their students to land good-paying jobs in the various communities and corporations that colleges and universities feed. I think that's part A.
I think part B is to the extent there is more connective tissue that's developed between colleges and universities, local communities, and corporate America, I think the stronger the feedback loop back to the colleges and universities is to give colleges universities guidance around curriculum, curriculum that is practical, curriculum that is valuable inside the US economy. It's not that graduates historically haven't found jobs. I mean, just up until COVID, unemployment was at a 50-year low. So it's not a matter of jobs. It's about good-paying jobs. It's about jobs that allow you to pay your bills and service your debt without being overly indebted.