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Should colleges and universities open in person for the Fall 2020 semester?
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Colleges depend on the room and board charge

All colleges are already struggling financially due Covid-19. Colleges still have high campus operation and maintenance fees usually covered by room and board charges. Campuses that remain online will have to pay these bills from their own reserves.

The Argument

Running a college/university campus is an expensive operation. Many expenses go unrecognized, such as employing campus workers like safety officers, janitors, administrators, etc, and maintaining campus facilities.[1]These are fixed expenses that mostly get paid for by student tuition and fees. If students don't return to campus, the universities will have to use their endowments – which is like a college's savings account – to pay these expenses. Colleges depend on a steady and predictable flow of money from students every year to run their operations. Out of state and international students are especially important because they pay more and will likely be the ones least likely to return. In addition, colleges make a lot of money from athletics and conferences held on the campus. [2] The consequence of fewer students returning to campus is that the cost may have to be absorbed by the college itself, causing them to run into a deficit. Endowments supply scholarships and other financial assistance programs, and so if the college is faced with a more expensive operation there will be less money available to help students who are struggling financially. Another result of these financial issues is that many colleges are having to layoff professors in order to cut expenses.[3] In addition, campuses that do reopen will face even higher running costs as they roll out expansive testing programs which aim to test students up to three times a week.[3] Colleges have also had to renovate various campus spaces to comply with COVID safety guidelines, and are stocking up on expensive protective equipment.[3] Altogether, running a campus is an expensive operation and without student room and board fees, colleges are going to struggle to stay financially afloat.

Counter arguments

Colleges should not be opening for in-person classes in order to stabilise their balance sheets. An article by Mikhalevich and Powell from Inside Higher Ed writes that "we believe the intention to return to in-person instruction is motivated by a misreading of the scientific probabilities, as well as a flawed balancing of interests that improperly weights economic harms and optimal teaching environments over systematic health impacts on the university community."[4] Experts warn that universities in areas with high rates of Covid-19 are making the conscious decision to place the institution's financial needs above the needs of their students.[5]



[P1] Room and board fees pay for more than just the room and food. [P2] Colleges depend on room and board fees to pay other bills. [P3] The loss of revenue from students remaining remote creates a budget deficit. [P4] Colleges need students living on campus to stay financially sound.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Thursday, 3 Sep 2020 at 22:54 UTC

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