New Outlook, Guidance and Plans

Here's the top news on how the coronavirus is affecting higher education.

March 19, 2020

All 50 states now have confirmed cases of coronavirus, borders are closing, stimulus funds are coming and the total number of cases in the U.S. is up to more than 7,000.

Phew. Deep breath. Before we get to the latest news in higher education, let's look at some palate cleansers.

A four-day-old tweet thread on cute animals from The Atlantic staff writer Alia Wong is still going strong.

The Washington Post's TikTok crew is really having a moment.

And there's this eerily accurate guess at how the characters in The Office would handle this pandemic.

And takeout's still happening in many places, if you want to support your local businesses. DCist has a list for Washington, D.C., where Inside Higher Ed is located, and the Washingtonian has info on how to help service workers who are struggling right now.

Hopefully now you’re a bit more Zen. Let’s get to the news.

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the financial outlook for higher education from stable to negative, citing revenue risks and uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Education is letting accrediting agencies conduct virtual evaluation site visits, as long as they follow up with in-person visits later on. Western Governors University is hosting a webinar with its accrediting agency to train others on how to do this successfully.

More than 43 higher education organizations sent a letter urging the U.S. Congress to increase support and flexibility for nontraditional students, who are especially affected by campus closures. They're asking Congress to allow emergency funds to cover basic needs, provide flexibility around the Pell Grant lifetime eligibility usage and ensure students don't get penalties on their satisfactory academic progress status.

Senate Democrats are proposing to not just defer student loans, but to pay down the amounts owed in the next coronavirus stimulus plan. President Trump has proposed a plan to waive interest on federal student loans.

Universities are leading the way in testing. An American Enterprise Institute tracker found the University of Washington Virology Lab and Stanford University are among the nation's leading organizations in COVID-19 testing capacity.


Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

Colleen Flaherty looked at how researchers are grappling with social distancing.

Doug Lederman asked experts how the sudden pivot to remote instruction will affect the online learning space.

Marjorie Valbrun wrote about the effects of the crisis on black colleges.

And Scott Jaschik examined an EAB survey that found enrollment officers are very worried about the effects of the coronavirus.

News From Elsewhere

ProPublica has the story of Weihong Tan, who was a professor at the University of Florida until he left during a Trump administration investigation into "his alleged failure to fully disclose Chinese academic appointments and funding." He now works at Hunan University in China, where he has created a fast, easy test for COVID-19.

Scott Cowen, president emeritus of Tulane University, wrote a reflection on his time leading the university through Hurricane Katrina in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Education Dive took a look at how the coronavirus could impact international enrollments.

Percolating Thoughts

This is a time when everyone has an opinion. As journalists, we have no opinions, but we've gathered some interesting ones from others.

A University of Richmond college student wrote an open letter urging administrators to not forget minority students during this time.

The associate vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has some recommendations for using "human solutions" in the switch to remote learning.

Robert Shireman, higher education director at the Century Foundation, came up with a plan to get students and borrowers help now.

Robert Kelchen, an associate professor at Seton Hall University, is advocating suspending federal student loan payments altogether (and Jason Delisle, of the American Enterprise Institute, agrees).

Got any percolating thoughts, or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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Madeline St. Amour

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