The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

                         THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON HIGHER EDUCATION                 

“There is only one way out of this. It is, of course, by rethinking our education.”

C.P. Snow, former professor, Cambridge University and author of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution



In the reimagined university the registrar is re-named graduation counselor and the career counselor is renamed lifelong learning counselor.

These two administrators, rarely having a seat at the strategic planning table, should have a seat at the vision planning table.

The graduation counselor has the ability, to outline for accepted applicants and their families, the courses that should be taken in sequence that could “guarantee,” if followed, progression and graduation in two, three or four years. Applicants would have this information before making an enrollment decision.

Potential outcome: Increased yield rates, less student debt and better progression and graduation rates.

Lifelong learning counselors have the ability to inform accepted and deposited applicants about internship opportunities at the beginning of their academic career, not as they approach the final year of enrollment as is often the case.

Students and their families would have this information before enrollment.

Potential outcome: Increased yield rates, better graduation and retention rates and earlier collaboration between potential employers and alumni.

Both of these suggestions build upon the previous recommendations for a reimagined university, including offering classes yearlong, both in person and online.

Another quote from C.P. Snow is relevant to the times:

“The imperative for adaptability, rigor, and quick but astute decision making is obvious. Because academic wristwatches mark time in increments of quarters or semesters, clock speed may need to be calibrated. Faculty committees tend to deliberate while shifts in policy, culture, and technology flash by at warp speed.”

Adaptation is part of life.

Or as the management consultant, Peter Drucker wrote, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”



“The mean-spirited policy is ignorant and ominous.” So wrote Brian Rosenberg, president emeritus of Macalester College, referring to the July 6th ruling by the Trump administration requiring all international students, those in the United States and those international students planning to enroll in the fall semester, to take courses only in person and not online. 

Colleges and universities were given nine days to respond with their teaching plans for the fall semester to meet the requirement.

This amounts to a new travel ban for F-1 students and could affect one million international students and cost the U.S. $41 billion in revenue.

A list of 40 colleges and universities in the United States with largest number of international students, included the following:*

NYU – 17,552 international students  –  30.8% of budget

Columbia University  –  14,615 international students  –  44.6% of budget

 USC  –  16,075 international students  –  32.3% of budget

Stanford University  –  5,650 international students  –  27% of budget

Harvard University  –  6,117 international students  –  15% of budget

Boston University  –  9,742 international students  –  23.5% of budget

Carnegie-Melon University  –  8,604 international students  –  56.4% of budget

Northeastern University  –  14,905 international students  –  53.6% of budget

Cornell University  –  6,775 international students  –  23.5% of budget

If you added up the number of international students attending California schools listed in this report the number is 68,174.

 Some of the most prestigious and generously endowed colleges and universities in the United States, with a substantial portion of their budgets met by international students, will be in trouble if these students are not allowed to enroll in the fall semester. Of course, everything is relative. But I was surprised at the high percentage of budgets met by international students at NYU, USC, Stanford, Northeastern, Columbia, BU, Cornell, and Carnegie Melon. 

*Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

On July 9th, Harvard, MIT and Northeastern University sued the Department of Homeland Security over this policy.

“We will pursue this case vigorously so that our international students – and international students at institutions across the country- can continue their studies without the threat of deportation.”

                              Lawrence S. Bacow, President, Harvard University


More bad news for international students and scholars. According to the Alliance for International Exchange, the suspension of certain visa categories, including H-1B, H-2B and some L and J non-immigrant visa categories, could cost the United States’ economy more than $223 million dollars and more than 7,000 jobs.

My colleague and co-author, Gretchen Dobson, sent me an article detailing how geopolitical tensions between Australia and China have spilled over into Chinese students’ decisions about studying in Australia. Less than 50% of Chinese students plan to return to Australia to study.

Some families and colleges and universities are investigating purchasing tuition insurance to protect against future enrollment uncertainties. GradGuard, is a tuition insurance company with 300 private and public institutions enrolled in their tuition insurance program.

Some UK universities are considering chartering planes to bring international students from India and China to their campuses to begin classes in the fall semester. Jamie Arrowsmith, assistant director of policy at Universities UK International, said it was supporting institutions by exploring the logistics and costs of chartering flights.

The UK has announced the creation of an “Office for Talent,” as part of a plan to attract high-caliber research talent in order to make the UK a scientific superpower.

Enrollment managers at several small private and public regional colleges in the U.S. report they are very near to meeting their new student enrollment goals for the fall semester. Returning students’ enrollment, at the colleges polled, is also strong. 

How did this happen?

“We threw all the models out the window.” Todd Rinehart, vice president/chancellor for enrollment at the University of Denver.



I am gratified by the comments I have received over the past 15 weeks from many of you reading these bulletins. “Bulletin distribution” has increased from a small group of colleagues to vice chancellors, presidents, international deans and consultants in Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia and the United States.

I am grateful to all who read and respond to my axiomatic suggestions of the moment. And I often try to reimagine what the next 15 weeks will bring. 

Stay tuned.


This entry was posted in Colleges, Foreign Students, International Education, International students, Universities by Marguerite Dennis. Bookmark the permalink.

About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *