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Brittany Goddard’s final semester at Howard University is not the dream that puts an end to what she imagined in Washington, DC

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the U.S. economy in March, she tried to pack her things as she had to be out of her dorm room within 48 hours. At the same time, she lost her part-time job at a catering company and has not yet received unemployment after applying for unemployed benefits in April.

She was scheduled to study abroad in Barcelona over the summer, but those plans grew due to the pandemic. And just weeks before the fall semester begins, she worries about how she will pay the rest of her tuition and fees – about $ 9,000 – as her financial aid will not cover her in private school.

“Heartbreaking hail. I’m a low-income student. I can not afford schooling,” says Goddard, 20, who has set up a GoFundMe site to raise money as her mother does not have the means to get one. other parent loan, a federal student loan available to parents of undergraduate undergraduate students.

“We don’t have much,” Goddard says. “My mother is a single parent who has two kids only in college. I’m trying to make it within the final reach.”

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Open colleges for stagnant enrollment

Millions of students across the country, like Goddard, face financial tensions and health fears as they decide whether to return to colleges and universities this fall. It comes at an unpredictable time for faculty and parents, as policymakers in Washington get caught up in further coronavirus outbreaks, leaving schools rushing to implement plans for the new academic year.

Just over a third of college students will return to campus and attend class in person this fall if given the option, according to a new report by Student Loan Hero, which was given exclusively in the US by TODAY. Another 16% plan to return to campus but will take online courses, while approximately 29% plan to study online from home, the data show.

While many students plan to take advantage of online learning options this fall, they do not necessarily feel that their courses should cost as much as the classes per person. Almost 66% of students think that the distant class has lower quality than those held in person, and that tuition costs should be reduced accordingly, according to data from the Student Credit Hero.

In the fall, Fitch Ratings predicts the annual enrollment decline could go from 5% to 20% for many colleges and universities as a result of the pandemic. Private colleges may experience more significant financial effects than public colleges, given a higher reliance on tuition and student income, for which the average share of total income is 82%, compared to 38% for universities. rated public, according to Fitch Ratings.

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Tuition restrictions threaten to exacerbate the financial effects of enrollment decline, experts say. The economic downturn may weaken expected family contributions and assets, and increase the need for financial assistance.

Enrollment pressures regarding a drop in international students and first-year students will affect some institutions more than others, experts say. For example, private colleges in competing regions with challenging demographics such as the Northeast are likely to be among those most affected. But other schools with a wider geographical draw are about to be less vulnerable.

Along those lines, Harvard recently admitted in an email to faculty and staff that more than 20% of its students do not intend to enroll this fall, according to a report at Harvard Crimson.

Parents worry about financial aid, housing costs

Across the country, Jennifer Degutis, 48, has different feelings when she sent her son, Ryan Contreras, 19, back to school for his sophisticated year at the University of California, San Diego.

Contreras, an aerospace engineer, will have his online classes this semester, Degutis says. But his housing options are up in the air if he does not return this fall. He was guaranteed on-campus accommodation for his first two years with his bailout package, but if he returns in the spring, he will be put on a waiting list, she says.

He will have to stay on campus as he does not have a car, and they still do not know if he will be paired with a roommate yet. Establishing a single room was very expensive with rising costs, and they would have to pay fees for him to use the campus facilities even if he was staying at home, she says.

When students arrive at the university this month, they will find strategically planted coronavirus testing stations across campus.

“It’s disturbing to realize he’s going back to school in this chaos,” says Degutis, who is a retail manager at Five Below, a discount store. She lives nearly three hours away from school in La Quinta, California.

A job study program is also part of his financial aid package, but there are not many opportunities and she is not sure how he will be able to work in the library or dining halls due to distance measures social.

Just over 46% of student workers are very worried that they will not be able to work during the fall semester, according to the Student Credit Student. And only about 1 in 5 students say their college offered a price cut for the fall semester because of the pandemic.

Mental health is a priority for parents

Not only has the pandemic created financial headaches for parents and students, but it also threatens to affect the mental well-being of their children, Degutis warns.

“All of my son’s classes are online, so my concerns as a parent also have to do with his mental health if he is confined to the bedroom for 12 weeks,” Degutis says.

Tracy Kapiloff, 54, of Houston agrees. She is worried about sending her daughter, Andie Kapiloff, 19, to an overseas school within weeks.

Her daughter, a researcher at Swarthmore College, a private, liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, is studying political science and is also on the women’s curvature team. But athletics has stopped for now, and she will only live on campus this year, Kapiloff says.

“I’m worried about her mental health. Do you want your child to live in a single room, taking online lessons without seeing a friend? Plus the high cost of education. Is it worth it?” Says Kapiloff. who is paying about $ 73,000 a year in tuition, fees and living costs.

“But then you think of her staying home indefinitely and not having any interaction with friends or teachers, so it seemed worse to stay home.”

The school is planning to conduct intermittent group testing for the virus throughout the semester. If a student is positive, they will test each person individually with a lower nasal swab, she says.

“It’s unusual. You send your kids to college sometimes worried about a big social scene. But now there is no party or alcohol with the pandemic,” says Kapiloff. “My concern is her education. But her concern is being social and navigate the new normal on campus. ”

A growing number of colleges are offering students a choice of classes online or in person. About 45% of college students surveyed by Student Loan Hero say they plan to take online classes next semester.

Some students are afraid of class on campus

This fall, 22-year-old Garrett Weed will be completing his final semester as a major marketer at Georgia State University in Atlanta. But he is concerned about how the school will prevent further outbreaks, he says.

He is scheduled to take four courses this semester. One is online but he has not received instructions for the other three. He is worried he will have to travel to campus and risk contracting the virus, he says.

“It’s scary. It doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to do,” says Weed. “I would prefer if all the classes were online.”

The main concern of students is the avoidance of coronavirus, according to the Student Credit Student. The next two main concerns were not so much learned due to online classes and the lack of college experience they wanted in terms of social life and extracurriculars.

Weed, who worked part-time at Bartaco, a casual, street-food restaurant, lost his job in the spring. He applied for unemployment in April and did not receive his first check-up until June, he says.

Since the spring, he has distanced himself in the company of his family, who live about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. He eventually moved out of his apartment in late July as he could not afford the rent. He is also in challenge trying to get an internship as many places are not being hired, he added.

“It’s scary to spend so much without a source of income,” says Weed, who has a mix of scholarships and student loans to pay for school. This semester was the first time he had to pay his remaining balance – $ 200 – out of pocket. He would normally receive a refund to help cover part of his living expenses, he says.

“It’s frustrating not to be completely independent. There’s no ready-made job I’m looking for,” says Weed. “When I graduate, I want to get a good job. An internship would help a lot, but I do not know if I would. to be able to now. ”

Others have not withdrawn their belongings from the spring

Goddard, who is a double major in political science and Spanish at Howard University, stuck things in storage in the spring, waiting to return to school in the fall. But now she is finishing her final months as an undergraduate living at home in Atlanta and does not know when she will be able to return to get her things.

She decided to stay with her mother as her financial assistance and lack of income could not cover her living expenses on campus.

She attended Howard University, a historically Black college, and a university where the experience was about a diverse group of adults. Although the school is reopening in the fall, there will be no homecoming, football games, or double Dutching on campus this semester, she says.

“I’m devastated. College is the most transformative year of your life. Things will never be the same,” says Goddard. “I wanted to go out with a bang, but COVID ruined it.”

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