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Five Thoughts on Returning to School

Philadelphia Inquirer photo

Sending students back to school in the midst of a pandemic presents an unparalleled challenge to educators, but it’s not impossible to overcome.


What happens every fall under normal circumstances–that is, the beginning of a new academic year in public schools across our country–has suddenly turned into one of the most challenging logistical feats educators have ever encountered.

Making matters worse, the ground keeps shifting under the schoolteachers, administrators, and local and state leaders who grapple with how to safely educate the millions of students normally under their care. COVID-19 is in a full rampage: multiple states are setting record-high infection rates, and national healthcare advisors warn of the consequences yet to come.

How, then, do we begin to explore the idea of teaching kids in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible? Here are five things to keep in mind.

Why can’t colleges use endowment funds to fill budget gaps?

Mitchell Community College campus
Nursing students celebrate their pinning ceremony on the campus of Mitchell Community College in Statesville, NC

The complexities of higher ed finance make it surprising to realize a college endowment with millions–or billions–in the bank can’t use those dollars for just anything.


There’s a new and frequently occurring question these days around higher education’s response to COVID-19: Why are colleges and universities laying off employees and cutting faculty when they have millions (or billions) of dollars in their endowments?

The question itself is rational enough. It seems unjust that Harvard cannot muster the budget to pay its dining services workers when it has $40 billion in the bank.

However, the vast majority of American colleges and universities — and let’s make sure we include community colleges in this conversation — are not Harvard. Not even close. According to a 2014 ACE report, slightly over half of four- and two-year non-profit colleges and universities even have an endowment, with a median endowment value of $7.9 million.

You’re Not Behind

clock

When you spend all of your time staring at the back of the person in front of you, you’ll never appreciate where you are.


Do you want to know one of the most amazing tricks the human mind can pull off? Accomplish something pretty cool. It can be anything–setting a personal best on your morning run, getting a promotion, making it all the way through a piano piece without having to stop, finally painting the guest bathroom that totally-in shade of gray.

And then? Maybe you enjoy it for a minute or two, or a week or two, even. Perhaps you feel some sort of confirmation–I could do this after all!–which saturates your brain momentarily.

The problem is, it wears off, and this is where your brain really messes with you. Did you set a personal best? Great, run faster. Got a promotion? Still not making as much money as your friend so-and-so. Finished The Entertainer? You’ll never make it through Rachmaninoff. Paint the bathroom? Gray is so out.

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