Colleges, universities worry about gap year possibility among high school seniors

Posted at 8:10 PM, Apr 22, 2020

CLEVELAND — Uncertainty surrounding education in Ohio is ongoing.

With K-12 students not returning to school, college and university officials are concerned as their institution’s futures will greatly depend on high school seniors.

Cleveland State University professor and Chairman of Economics Bill Kosteas compares what’s to come to what happened after the great recession.

“In Ohio and in many states state universities have been struggling budget wise,” he said. “We had a series of cuts from the state budgets, right? The subsidies for higher education at the same time that we had a freeze on tuition.”

Kosteas says the possibility of graduating high school seniors taking a gap year could overwhelm colleges and universities across the state.

“You imagine if you’re going to have say a 20% reduction or 15% reduction or even a 10% reduction in tuition revenue for a year you know, what can you do?”

A recent survey found one in five high school seniors are likely not to attend college in the fall due to the pandemic. That survey says the financial fallout from COVID-19 could cause that number to rise.

“The revenue is just going to crater. It’s going to put a lot of strain on budgets,” Kosteas said. “Our administration is working on these issues right now as I’m sure they are all across the state.”

Back in March when schools across the state started to close because of COVID-19, Tri-C was forced to cancel its recruitment tours at local high schools. Now, they’re having to pivot their approach by targeting families who may not want their students to go away for school and those who are back home from school out of state, according to VP of Enrollment Management, Angela Johnson.

“We are really trying to send a message of focus on your future because the reality is this is going to pass,” she said.

Johnson says Tri-C’s funding largely depends on tuition with most of admissions consisting of in-county students. However, the school has at least 500 international students. Johnson says her team is waiting on guidance from the government to determine on how to proceed with those students.

In addition, her team is focused on May 1; the date Governor Mike DeWine’s stay at home order, expires and the deadline for high school seniors to submit their acceptance and deposits for college.

“We are really thinking about flexibility and really helping the students get started in ways in which we can make some exceptions to really make sure that they feel that there’s no barriers to their entry,” Johnson said.

Tri-C is allowing seniors to submit unofficial transcripts considering schools being closed.

While it’s too early to estimate any losses, Kosteas says it will be difficult preparing for a possible surge when gap year students start college.

“It’s going to hit you with two very different problems you have to deal with back to back.”