With September approaching and the Covid-19 vaccine not yet available, people are taking to social media to express their thoughts about going back to school in the midst of the pandemic. Analyzing the discussion with Nuvi Listen, we found that the sentiment of the conversation was largely negative.
Why? One possible explanation is that students (and parents) don’t feel safe returning to campus without a vaccine or cure for the virus.
Digging deeper, we found that "tuition" was one of the most frequently mentioned words alongside “university.” Conversations that included “tuition” had a 5% more negative sentiment than tweets containing “university” alone. Many universities have cut staff, especially those with campus-focused jobs, in preparation for a shift to remote learning. Students (and their parents) believe the financial benefits of these cuts should extend to them, and tuition should be reduced if classes will be held online.
Harvard sparked some of this discussion with its announcement that all classes for the 2020-21 academic year will be taught online, while tuition will remain the same. Only up to 40% of students will be allowed on campus at a time. Some commenters and publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, have pointed out that this will allow Harvard to continue receiving money from non-US based students, as other schools prepare for the number of foreign students to drop.
Universities are caught between a rock and a hard place. In some areas, it may not be safe to return to large gatherings like lectures in the fall, but enrollment numbers may decline if classes continue to be remote and tuition stays the same. Some students, concerned about the lack of campus amenities like libraries, sports, greek life, and the classic "college experience," may delay their college plans by a semester, leading to financial hardships for educational institutions. Others may not be able to afford to return because of the difficult job market for student-friendly jobs like servers and bartenders due to limits on indoor dining and bars in many areas. Students living with autoimmune disorders or cohabitating with older family members may need to take a semester off or transfer if in-person classes resume.
Based on the discussion surrounding the 2020-21 school year, it may be difficult to find a solution that satisfies everyone. But in accordance with our findings, it seems students and the general population feel strongly that tuition should be reduced if classes are held online. A possible solution for colleges could be to decrease tuition while increasing class size for general education, introductory and popular courses since classes are no longer restricted to the size of a lecture hall. This will allow them to temporarily reduce their staffing costs while providing the reduced costs that their consumers are looking for.
Want to see the whole discussion around universities, or any other topic you may be researching? Learn more here.