Blog

3 Impacts Of Coronavirus On College Admissions

The college admissions and college consulting industries have been fueled by international enrollment growth. But the spread of COVID-19 could change the landscape of college admissions for the foreseeable future. Here are three impacts we have identified as of February 2020.

Reduced Access To Standardized Tests. Within Mainland China, sittings for the major entrance examinations have been canceled for the months of February and March. These cancellations include major examinations like the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT, which are required by many college and graduate programs.

The National Association of College Admissions Counseling has made a statement to encourage universities to be flexible with applicants; however, universities are not mandated to comply with this recommendation and no prominent universities have made public statements as of February 2020.

At the same time, the list of colleges that do not require the SAT or ACT has grown to nearly 1,100, but many of these colleges will require either the TOEFL or IELTS to confirm English language proficiency. This means that colleges and universities need to make a difficult decision, either in favor of increasing student access or in assuring student compliance.

Slowed Transcontinental Enrollment from China.
One third of international students in the U.S. came from China as reported in the academic year 2018-2019. However, according to a February 2020 study conducted by the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association (BOSSA), approximately 36% of students are changing their plans to study abroad because of the COVID-19 outbreak. In addition, study abroad programs in China have been canceled for this semester and some students who are studying in China have been unable to return to the U.S.

Meanwhile, in Australia, more than 100,000 Chinese students (more than half) were unable to return to campus following the February travel ban. The Group of Eight universities in Australia claimed in 2018 that each international student contributes about $250,000 to the economy, which means big losses for universities should students be unable to return to campus in the near future.

If transcontinental enrollment has slowed down or stopped in the U.S. and elsewhere, the global economy will be impacted by billions, with up to $40 billion lost in the U.S. alone. Given restricted access to standardized tests, in lieu of degree programs, students eager to enroll in a program may instead seek out online and short-term programs that provide micro-credentials. This could provide an alternative source of international exchange.

Decline in Institutional and Individual Wealth.
The timely volume, The College Stress Test, provides a framework for colleges to review their institutional health. Its authors suggest that universities engage in self-examination across four factors— first-year enrollment, student retention, access to external funding (e.g. state appropriations), and net price (the revenue received per student after discounting).

Should student mobility take a downturn, enrollment and retention would be negatively impacted; while access to funding for institutions and for students will be negatively impacted by a predicted economic recession. An enrollment slowdown or stoppage would negatively impact university bottom lines, especially for colleges located in California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Pennsylvania which are the top five states to host international students.

The Coronavirus has many geopolitical implications that are acutely felt in the higher education sector due to the transnational interdependencies of the system. The International Association of College Admissions Counseling recently convened town halls to discuss these issues and their implications with discussions expected to continue as the situation unfolds. Given the ever-changing nature of the conditions surrounding the virus, it is critical for students and institutions to prepare for all possible scenarios.

By Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder of Ivy Insight, a boutique college admissions consulting firm, and an internationally recognized expert in the field. First published on https://www.forbes.com/ February 24, 2020