Classes in US colleges may stay online until next year

MUMBAI: The US higher education space, already grappling with unfavourable immigration messaging and narrowing flow of foreign students, could be up for a major disruption with the unpredictability around the coronavirus outbreak in that country.

Also, for all those Indians who are willing to spend a crore or more to be get admitted into an Ivy league campus in the US, the wait may have just got a bit longer.

Several American universities are looking at the possibilities of keeping their campuses closed until January 2021 amid uncertainties around the pandemic.

Almost all the US colleges are planning to start classes in the fall semester, though many would resort to online teaching. The fall session starts in mid-August and goes on till a few days before Christmas. By going online, students stand to miss campus or classroom experience — considered critical in overseas universities.

One of the biggest challenges before the American universities is catering to the expectations — such as demands of fee waiver and deferral of session — of international students who are a major contributor of revenue for these colleges, foreign education experts said. Indian students contribute about $8 billion to the US economy and are the second highest group of foreign students in the US after the Chinese.

Harvard University is preparing for a scenario in which “much or all learning will be conducted remotely” for its fall semester, Provost Alan M Garber said. He referred to a range of options being weighed currently, from fully restored on-campus activities to delaying the opening of the university until the next spring semester (January-May).

Stanford Graduate School of Business, during its ‘Virtual Admit Day’ held last weekend, announced that it was “planning for the MBA Class of 2022 Program to begin in the fall”.

“It is our hope that we will be able to resume in-person instruction, but we are preparing for the possibility that social distancing requirements and visa challenges will require some virtual learning,” Paul Oyer, the senior associate dean for academic affairs, told ET. At Stanford GSB, nearly 43% of its class o ..

A spokesperson at the MIT Sloan School of Management termed the situation as “fluid”. She said: “The answers they (admissions department) give now could change even within a few weeks depending on how issues around the pandemic play out.”

Boston University may not resume classes till early January. The university is working on a recovery plan to restart on-campus tutoring once the situation improves.

“The ‘Recovery Plan’ recognises that if, in the unlikely event that public health officials deem it unsafe to open in the fall of 2020, then the university’s contingency plan envisions the need to consider a later in-person return, perhaps in January 2021,” according to an online statement.

A spokesperson from Yale University said: “We will announce decisions about the fall no later than early July. If we can do so sooner, we will.”

The cost of a two-year MBA at some of America’s top 10 institutes such as Harvard or Stanford could be between Rs 1.0 crore and Rs 1.5 crore. The cost of a four-year undergraduate course would be Rs 30-50 lakh a year, according to industry estimates.

Meanwhile, worried Indian students, in the absence of a clear response from US-based institutes, are making deposit payments ($300-500) in multiple institutes to secure a seat. The students will have to choose one institute and make the final payment in June.

“They will take a call depending on how the situation plays out over the next few months. They may choose one (university) after taking into consideration factors such as fee waivers, scholarships, and even better online infrastructure,” said education consultancy Collegify’s director, Rohan Ganeriwala. “There will also be many deferral requests to next year,” he said.

“As the pandemic threatens to move the fall semester online there could be pressure on the institutes to reduce fees or offer some kind of incentives to the students,” said Akshay Chaturvedi, founder & CEO, Leverage Edu.


May 02, 2020

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