How can colleges handle financial challenges amidst this pandemic?

Here are some ways higher education institutions can boost revenues, lower expenses, and raise funds.

The pandemic has forced education officials to cancel classes and close their doors to students. Colleges have become forced to switch to online classes and bear the costs.

Lyle Solomon is an attorney with Oak View Law Group.

You may know that international students play a major role in the steady source of revenue for U.S. universities. The Department of Commerce estimated that in 2019, international students contributed about $44 billion to the U.S. economy.

The largest source of international students in the U.S. is China, comprising almost 35% of the foreign student population.

Because of the travel restrictions due to the pandemic, many Chinese students cannot return to the U.S. to continue their studies. A report by Fortune reveals that Chinese student applications for the coming academic year have been reduced by almost 18%.

The U.S. higher education system is going through an economic downturn. According to a recent CNBC report, 74% of colleges are facing financial challenges. Aaron Rasmussen, the co-founder of MasterClass, said, “The trend of colleges closing absolutely has been accelerated. Without significant state or federal intervention, we’re going to see a lot of colleges close.”

So, the best possible solution to bail out colleges from this economic crisis is resuming physical classes with precautions. But how to do so? Here are some ways:


Many colleges are mandating vaccination before arriving on campus. Sherita Golden, M.D., M.H.S., chief diversity officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said, “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, getting the vaccine is a powerful step in taking charge of your health. When given as directed, the FDA-authorized vaccines can prevent severe COVID-19 illness and death.”

So, if the students and employees at the campuses become fully vaccinated, the chances of spreading this deadly virus will become much less. Also, even if someone gets infected with the coronavirus, its effect is likely to be mild.

Inclusion of COVID-19 guidelines in the students’ code of conduct

Colleges need to draft guidelines for COVID-19 appropriate behavior for students, like:

  • Wearing a mask that covers the face and mouth inside the campus area.
  • Maintaining physical distance irrespective of vaccination status.
  • Testing, quarantine, isolation, and contact tracing if anyone develops COVID-19 symptoms.
  • These guidelines should be included in the student code of conduct. If anyone is found violating the guidelines, they will face strong disciplinary action.

Create an online course-sharing consortium

Many colleges, like Austin Community College in Texas, have started an online course-sharing consortium. It is made through a consortium from the nonprofit League for Innovation in the Community College and course-sharing platform developer Acadeum.

So, online course-sharing consortiums will help assist students in completing their degrees on time and increase enrollments at a cheaper cost.

Cynthia Wilson, vice president for learning and chief impact officer for the League for Innovation in the Community College, said, “This new consortium will help community colleges better meet learners’ needs by arranging student access to courses that are unavailable at their home institutions.”

Apply for financial assistance programs

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund III (HEERF III) is authorized by the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Public Law 117-2, signed into law on March 11, 2021, providing $39.6 billion in support to institutions of higher education to serve students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

So, colleges can apply for HEERF to handle financial challenges and look towards a better future.

Mark Kantrowitz, a higher education expert, said, “In addition to requiring colleges to use at least half of the HEERF for emergency financial aid grants to students, these colleges are required to conduct outreach to students about the opportunity to appeal for more financial aid due to the recent unemployment of a family member or other special circumstances.”

Fundraising to support colleges

Colleges can set up emergency relief funds to handle financial challenges during this pandemic. For example, the University of Kansas held its annual ‘One Day. One KU.’ fundraiser on February 18, 2021. It helped them to raise $3,396,158, along with 5,412 gifts.

About the Author: Lyle Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California. He has contributed to publications such as Entrepreneur, All Business, US Chamber, Finance Magnates, Next Avenue, and many more.

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