CoranaVirus causes uncertainty if students will return to campus in the fall

Emma Niland

This time of the year is typically spent getting excited to graduate and go to college in the fall. Students are typically eager to finish their exams and attend countless graduation parties to start off their last summer before being a college student. Typically. Thanks to our dear friend COVID-19, all of our dreams of moving away to go to college in just a few short months might not become a reality.

Numerous colleges including Boston University have announced hypothetical plans to cancel the fall 2021 semester and have all students stay home and take online courses. James Madison University has already informed its incoming freshman class, which includes myself, that all summer on-campus activities will be held online due to VA Gov. Northam’s stay-at-home order until June 10. This includes summer springboard which is a vital part of the course selection process.

In the eyes of most, cancelling the upcoming fall semester is the right decision. In 2015 JMU had over 20,000 students enrolled on campus. Now imagine 20,000 students returning to campus this August. It just doesn’t seem completely safe by any means, and JMU is actually small compared to some other bigger schools down south such as the University of South Carolina, which had over 52,000 enrolled students last fall. Dining halls, gyms, libraries, and sporting arenas would all have to be modified or shut down in order to help maintain the health of each campus’ students.

While medical professionals and all at-risk patients would probably thank colleges for cancelling semesters and keeping students at home, the financial status of colleges across the country will continue to deteriorate, as well as the financial status of professors and other staff members.

My brother is a student at JMU, and while our family did get refunded for a lot of his second semester tuition, the university had to hold onto a chunk of it to help pay for campus needs, such as the staff members still working at JMU, paying professors, etc. My parents, like many others I’m sure, were a little annoyed with not getting a bigger refund for my brother’s education. However when looking at it big picture, JMU’s financial status at the moment is weak and will continue to degrade if its incoming freshman class pays a lesser tuition to take classes at home for the fall semester.

Personally, this side of the argument makes me think that we will be going to college this fall, but if we do it’ll be a completely different experience. One that I’m not sure I want. After many conversations with my parents, I’ve decided that if JMU cancels the upcoming fall semester, I will be deferring my admission for a year. In other words, I’ll be taking a gap year, but it’ll be filled with 30-hour work weeks and I will take some general education courses at TCC if they’re available to help lessen my course load when I do go to JMU.

Seems like a good idea, right? I mean, what student wants to miss out of his or her first semester of college. Besides for the fun parts like rushing and football games, there are an infinite number of lessons that us young adults need to learn.

Problem is, I’m not the only one with this idea. Not only do many of my classmates and friends have similar plans for this fall, but I have friends in California and Massachusetts who have also voiced their ambitions to me. And guess what! Turns out a lot of their friends want to take a gap year too.

And even more, because of the unemployment rate rising and the economic crisis of our country as of now, many families may not be able to afford to send their children to the out-of-state schools they were originally supposed to attend.

Consider this new problem. Not only will colleges be losing money due to upperclassmen tuition being lowered, but if there is a shortage of incoming freshmen, colleges will only lose more money in tuition. This will severely affect the smaller schools and all schools that don’t receive endowments like Harvard does.

The livelihood of the near future is unclear, which is unsettling for all of us. But thanks to today’s society there are so many other opportunities for us to take part in if college isn’t the right answer this fall.

To the Class of 2020, we will get through this. Regardless of whatever “this” turns out to be.