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Since the pandemic started, online or remote classes have become the norm. Many hopeful first-year college students looking forward to moving into their dorms in the fall and exploring their new school campus had to shelve all their plans and settle for home-based learning. But students aren't the only ones facing difficulties.

College and universities themselves have seen a significant and steady decline in enrollment since 2020, as most students opted out of pursuing higher education altogether. Community colleges, in particular, have seen a steep decrease in registration and are still struggling to swim back up to the surface.

Stamping Out Infections

Many school officials have taken the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, and their efforts have focused on stamping out any risk of infection before it's even possible. However, many, even those who have since graduated, have felt the pandemic's toll on education. It seems that despite the perceived risk, some colleges and universities remain adamant about letting students remain on-campus. Safety regulations and restrictions have to be enforced, but it might appear to be a small sacrifice to make to ensure a complete college experience.

But is it a complete and genuine college experience when the threat of a global virus still looms above the heads of students and faculty alike? While health officials have started to roll out vaccines and safety strictly implemented health measures, there's still no denying the associated risk of being in public spaces among other people for an extended period. Some universities have attempted to hold face-to-face classes while limiting exposure to the virus as much as possible. While the success of this endeavor remains varied and subjective, there might be some benefit to the experiment.

Benefits and Risks of Face-to-Face Classes

With the shift to online learning, many established educational institutes have had to adapt to many new changes in only a year. These changes include investments in digital services such as Wi-Fi, remote communication apps, and cloud-based tools, among others. More prominent universities might make these technological leaps, but smaller schools have had to contend with a lack of resources, human and otherwise. For these schools, face-to-face learning is the only way they can continue to operate.

When it comes to the students, meanwhile, some might not be able to get stable Wi-Fi at home or don't have the proper technological requirements, such as a PC or a webcam. Some students and teachers work better when they're not at home, especially in the case of destructive relationships between families.

But even then, following some regulations, schools might only be allowed to conduct face-to-face lessons in a limited capacity. Depending on the area, health officials might not permit or recommend face-to-face classes, especially in the regions that constantly see a steady increase in COVID-19 cases and a higher risk of infection. Most schools also require everyone who enters to be fully vaccinated, which can present a problem for people who can't or won't get vaccinated. Even more than that, most students find their experience diminished or not as enjoyable when reminders of the still-raging pandemic are still around.

In the end, the risks of having face-to-face classes outweigh the benefits. Remote classes continue to be the preferred method of instruction. This setup opens up a world of vast resources and accessibility that not many can typically achieve through in-classroom learning. Still, significant adjustments to a new model of teaching and learning, the mental health of everyone involved, and lack of separation between work and home life have become difficult hurdles to get over. Many look forward to when it's finally safer to go back to conventional learning.

How Are Colleges Coping?

Having no students to teach ultimately defeats the purpose of school. Without their students, colleges and universities have nowhere else to go. Between the limitations on learning and classes and the limited number of students, colleges have adapted to many new changes. Other than the apparent shift to distance learning, colleges have resorted to other means to win over as many students as they can.

Some might rely on their prestigious name to get people to invest, while others prefer to focus on quality education for the few students who remain. Offering good programs and incentives, holding virtual campus tours, investing in a hybrid form of learning, and getting endorsements from alumni and trusted students and faculty are ways many colleges have adapted to the lack of enrollment.

Despite facing the risk of a virus and potential closure, colleges and universities remain optimistic about the future. With more and more people getting vaccinated and places lifting restrictions on travel, more people see the importance of education and learning amid a world of danger and misinformation. As a new fall semester begins, many schools hope to open their doors and welcome more students and a better academic year for everyone.


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