Rethink everything from enrollment and refund policies to international recruitment and student visas
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted higher education, posing unique challenges for colleges and universities as they plan for the 2020-21 academic year. Many of those challenges are related to fall enrollment levels; e.g., student health and safety, affordability, and the ability of international students to obtain and extend visas. Administrators are also grappling with how to execute a hybrid (physical/virtual) model of learning and how that might impact enrollment.
In response, here is a set of recommendations to help administrators manage these uncertainties and navigate the economic and operational obstacles ahead.
Sharon Butler is executive vice president of global education at Flywire.
To ensure financial solvency, institutions need to craft clear policies that give students and families the confidence to enroll now with the intent to begin studies in the fall. To that end:
Higher ed institutions can build the confidence necessary to support international student enrollment by creating flexibility with school visa policies and proactively sharing information on visa availability and regulations.
The economic disruption of COVID-19 may make it harder for students and families to afford previously accessible programs. This will lead to increased reliance on both financial aid and payment plans. As such, we recommend that administrators:
International students make invaluable cultural, academic and financial contributions to educational institutions, but their ability to obtain and extend student visas is being jeopardized by government closures. Higher ed institutions can build the confidence necessary to support fall 2020 semester enrollment by creating flexibility with school visa policies and proactively sharing information on visa availability and regulations. Consider:
For reference, we have gathered student visa data from a variety of sources and segmented it by leading international study country destinations. Additionally, in support of foreign students and institutions, we are leading a campaign to influence policy change at the state and federal level with the goal of ensuring that international students have every ability to resume their studies when it’s safe to do so.
The COVID-19 crisis has created enormous uncertainties for colleges and universities planning for the fall semester. To offset some of these challenges, schools should clearly define enrollment policies and contingencies, create flexible plans to make tuition more affordable, and communicate with international students about the latest visa information. All of these things can help provide students and families with the confidence they need to enroll now with the intent to commence studies in the fall.
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