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Northam college, university bailout plan fails to address bigger issue

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Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan that he says would save Virginia’s public colleges and universities more than $300 million over the next two years fails to address a fundamental issue.

“Virginia’s college-bound students – particularly Black, Hispanic and first-generation– can’t afford the high tuition and fees,” said Dr. James Toscano, president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust.

A recently published U.S. Census Bureau report shows that 29 percent of those planning to take college courses this fall canceled their plans, and among those, 65 percent cited not being able to pay for classes and educational expenses because of changes to income from the pandemic.

Another key issue: 41 percent of those taking a gap semester cited uncertainty about how classes and programs might change, and 35 percent were concerned over changes to campus life.

“Most students are questioning the value of what is essentially ‘Zoom University’ with limited access to facilities or services,” Toscano said.

The disruption to college and university life that is endemic to the response to COVID-19 in the here and now unfortunately might not be temporary.

The approach being advocated by Northam helps schools balance their bottom lines in the short term. The longer-term issue with high tuitions and the perceived lack of value from what students are paying for is not being addressed.

“We’re looking at severe long-term consequences to both the Commonwealth’s underserved students and the schools themselves if they don’t allocate some of these relief funds towards making college more affordable,” Toscano said.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press