A lot of school administrators have made strong statements in the past six weeks that they will be open for on-campus learning — leaving themselves some wriggle-room, in case their state or local governments prohibit it, or unless circumstances change and their public health advisors recommend that they don’t. Many schools promised to make final decisions about Fall 2020 at the end of June.
Here we are, with much of the U.S. just about losing its sh!t with coronavirus, and what, exactly, are these schools going to do?!?
One insider at a huge state university program told us that their school’s president was waiting until July 1st to make any final announcement about being on-campus or fully online, because that’s when their state’s fiscal year rolls over. We’re not exactly sure why that matters so much, but we also don’t understand the behind-the-scenes accounting that goes on with allocations and revenue shortfalls on a big university budget. This particular school relies on undergrads paying rent to live in its dorms as a large chunk of its revenues, and that’s the case at many other schools too, which of course is what’s behind the big push to pretend that they’ll be doing teaching in-person as normal this year. The presumption has been that all these undergrads really want the on-campus experience and they won’t continue their education if they can’t do it in real time at school.
Some schools seem not to recognize that a lot of students don’t want to be on campus now. They’d rather stay home, given what’s happening. And, a lot of undergrads don’t want to take a gap year right now. A gap year? In a pandemic? What exactly will they be doing instead? It’s not like they’re going to be off traveling the world, and there’s no jobs to be had now either. Taking a year off of college will derail all their future plans. The schools are afraid that they’ll lose students to other opportunities, but the college-bound kids that we’ve talked to are set on sticking with their plans for college because they’re in a hurry to get on with their lives. They don’t want to sit out a year. A lot of college administrators seem to have misunderstood their customer. Sure, online school isn’t the same, but it’s better than the other very bad options for these kids.
A lot of professors don’t want to come back to campus, either, even though they also complain mightily about the challenges of teaching in an online format. A lot of professors are in higher-risk groups. Teaching in a socially-distanced classroom, with everyone in a mask, is not exactly going to be a standard classroom experience conducive to learning.
Nobody is happy with anything.
Yet the schools are very focused on still pretending that it’ll all be happening in real time on their campuses in two months, and it’ll go great, and everyone will be safe, and loving it.
That takes quite a lot of faith and optimism to believe all of this will occur.
But yes, school will be happening, whether it’s happening on Zoom or in half-populated spread-out lecture halls with a smattering of students at once. And yes, schools still don’t have finalized class rosters, because of all the uncertainty and change.
What we can offer is that if you’re still hanging out in waitlist limbo to get into a top MBA program, that the bulk of the movement that will happen, if any, will likely be in the next two or three weeks. Most schools will be able to admit at least some additional students from the waitlist quite soon. And, we can also say that many schools got absolutely slammed with apps in the March-April timeframe, and there are lots and lots of waitlisters in your shoes along with you. It’s so tough to say who might get tapped and who should not hold out hope. In light of all the social change we’ve been witnessing, it’s safe to say that any candidate who brings one or more elements of demographic diversity will be given a close look, but even still, there are so many viable candidates now that the schools still have a broad field to choose from.
Many, if not most, top schools have vowed to offer a remote option to all MBA students, at least for Fall if not also for next Spring too. We still believe, as we had originally forecast in early April, that most schools will not be having on-campus instruction for Fall, regardless of how many schools have been pretending that that’s what they would do.
The next few weeks are likely to be very illuminating.
All of you, we hope you’re staying safe, and not getting lax with the mask-wearing and social-distancing. Having a meal in a restaurant is simply not worth it, ya know?
America is not doing well with this challenge, but individually, we can each one of us make a difference in actions taken to prevent the spread and stay healthy.
The next few weeks shall be interesting. Let’s see where the world goes from here, and what announcements come out as the schools put final decisions in place for their incoming classes.
Good luck to those of you who are still waiting word!! This cannot be easy.
To those who’re already gearing up to start class this Fall: Congrats! And enjoy your final weeks of pre-MBA freedom — safely at a social distance of course!
UPDATE: For an actual professor’s view, who happens to be an economist at University of Michigan: In the New York Times today, College Is Worth It, but Campus Isn’t by Dr. Susan Dynarski