Still within the first month of most of the nation's universities and colleges reopening their campuses, albeit with severe restrictions and social distancing measures, administrative leaders are awaiting with bated breath just how bad the pandemic impact will be in terms of a financial hit and decline in student enrollment.
A number of campuses told students to go home a mere couple weeks after reopening, transitioning to all online classes after an immediate observed rise in COVID-19 cases. Others are struggling on, with entire 'quarantine dorms' that resemble prisons for those that get sick, uncertain about what the rest of the fall semester holds.
But the numbers are starting to trickle in. Bloomberg reports that one prominent campus in the nation's capital, George Washington University, has witnessed its enrollment tumble, already down 17% from last year.
Bloomberg underscores that it's "an early indication of the impact of Covid-19 on U.S. higher education" given that families are struggling with the combination of paying pricey tuition and fees for a college experience severely regulated by masks, coronavirus tests, plexiglass barriers, and harsh rules that prevent spending time with groups of friends.
"President Thomas LeBlanc told a faculty senate meeting that preliminary undergraduate enrollment is about 1,000 students below its target of 10,126, a spokeswoman said Monday," Bloomberg writes of George Washington University.
Broadly, most other institutions of high learning are expected to report similar declining numbers as well as tuition revenue.
A recent poll in National Association of College and University Business Officers finds 67% of colleges expect enrollment to noticeably decrease, but are awaiting final tallies next month.
A separate report underscored that tuition accounts for 70% or more of revenue at the vast majority of small US colleges, which means many are in a struggle for their very survival.
Schools hosting large international programs are also expected to suffer, given also travel restrictions related to both their home countries and especially the latest US student visa measures aimed at China.