61% of Colleges Give Industry a ‘C’ or Lower for COVID-19 Reopening Plans

Kaplan asked over 300 college admissions officers to grade their industry's reopening performance as a whole.
Published: October 22, 2020

A recent survey found the majority of colleges gave their industry mediocre grades for reopening campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Kaplan survey, which asked admissions officers at over 300 institutions of higher education to evaluate their industry’s reopening performance as a whole, 4% gave it an A, 36% gave it a B, 51% gave it a C, 9% gave it a D and 1% gave an F. The survey took many factors into account, including new safety precautions, delivering courses, and communicating with students and parents.

The survey spanned two weeks from Sept. 16 to Sept. 29 and was conducted while there were reports of coronavirus outbreaks at several large universities. It also came at the time when some schools switched from in-person classes to strictly online.

Admissions officers who poorly graded their industry’s reopening plans shared the following comments:

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  • “Both parents and students wanted to come back to campus. The schools that went online-only tended to have huge endowments or other financial support. Schools did the best they could in the environment they are in and the lack of strong leadership at the national level made it almost impossible for any school to open well.”
  • “I think that too many tried to reopen in person without enough safety precautions in place. Too many students got sick, and then if those universities closed and switched to online, then those students potentially spread the virus even more when they moved back home.”
  • “Very few schools did this well…The ‘waffling’ by most institutions did nothing but create confusion and anxiety with students and parents.”
  • “A majority of the reopening plans that have been implemented were based on the idea that college students will suddenly stop acting like college students. Expecting students to sit in their dorms and not try to be social at all (whether on or off campus) was not realistic. Also, testing plans were not thought out well at all. Some schools have not made access to testing easy, whether it be charging students for testing or threatening disciplinary action if students have a positive test. In some cases on our campus, students do not feel that they can reach out for health services and other support without having a ‘COVID witch hunt’ come after them.”

Here are some comments from admissions officers who gave above-average grades:

  • “I know that great amounts of time and attention were given to reopening steps by most institutions, and only a few have experienced high numbers of COVID-19 infections after reopening. The safety steps for most schools are extensive.”
  • “I think many colleges and universities reopened in accordance with state guidelines. In my experience, universities also developed internal steering committees and COVID-19 response teams that evaluated all factors at play in reopening. Often these review committees and standards of reopening were more cautionary than the state’s phased return plan.”
  • “Students should have access to in-person study and an in-person community during their college years. I believe we can do this even amidst a global pandemic. Colleges have taken the necessary procedures to mitigate the spread while students are on campus.”
  • “It is the first time for all of us. I would be less lenient come fall 2021.”

“What college admissions officers are telling us in this survey is that there is a lot of room for improvement in multiple areas, from education delivery, to communication, to safety procedures,” Isaac Botier, executive director of college admissions programs at Kaplan, said of the findings. “We think this self-awareness is positive, and many shared plans on how they’ll be making improvements in the coming weeks and months. Fundamentally, they all understand that safety comes first.”

Kaplan will release additional findings from the survey over the coming months, the company says.

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