As the coronavirus spread around the world earlier this year, colleges and universities across the United States have switched to distance learning to mitigate the possibility of outbreaks on campus. Now, even as the number of new cases in the United States continues to break records, many schools are planning to return to in-person learning this fall.
Countless metropolitan areas rely on universities to keep their economies afloat. And some subways depend on it more than others, according to the latest research from Student Loan Hero, which puts universities at the heart of their economic future.
- Lynchburg, Va. Ranks first on our list, with just over 14% of people working or attending a local college or university. There are seven colleges, universities or vocational schools in the Lynchburg area.
- Springfield, Mass., Is second, with about 13% of the region’s population working or attending local institutions of higher education. This represents 84,800 students and workers out of a total population of 631,800 inhabitants. Springfield is home to 13 colleges, universities and vocational schools.
- Lincoln, Neb., Ranks third, with just under 13% of the local population associated with area colleges and universities. Almost 2,300 people work in universities or colleges, while 39,815 study there.
- At the bottom of our list is Lakeland, Florida, where only 4.5% of people work or study in local institutions.
- Roanoke, NC and Fort Wayne, Ind., Round out the last three, each with 5.2% of its population working or learning at local higher education institutions.
- Of the 100 metropolitan areas analyzed, around 7.7% of the population works or studies in a college, university or vocational school.
1. Lynchburg, Virginia.
Of the 100 subways with the most college and university employees, Lynchburg relies the most heavily on these institutions. Indeed, 14.3% of the region’s population works or attends one of the region’s seven colleges, universities or vocational schools.
Local higher education institutions are generally private, which could boost their fall reopening plans. At least three of Lynchburg’s metro schools – Lynchburg University, Liberty University and Sweet Briar College – plan to reopen for the fall semester.
New cases of the coronavirus are on the rise over a two-week period in Lynchburg, so it’s something to watch out for as these schools begin to reopen.
2. Springfield, Massachusetts.
In this metro of 631,800 inhabitants – higher than the others in our top three – just over 13% of the population attends or works for the 13 colleges, universities or vocational schools.
Springfield has a mix of private and public institutions, and their plans for the fall vary. Private Western New England University, for example, announced that the “vast majority” of classes will be held on campus this fall. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Amherst Public University has announced that most of its classes will be conducted remotely, which could curb the subway’s reliance on its universities if students – and some employees – did not return to the region.
It should be noted that the June 2020 unemployment rate in the metro was 17%, the highest by far of the top three listed here. Cases in Hampden County – where Springfield is located – and the state have increased slightly over the past two weeks.
3. Lincoln, Nab.
Among the universities and colleges in Lincoln is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, whose Big Ten football team is a major part of the local economy. Almost 13% – 12.6%, to be exact – of the local population attend or work for universities, colleges or vocational schools in Lincoln.
Classes at Nebraska-Lincoln Public University will begin remotely this fall, but only for the first week. At the private Union College, classes will start next week, two weeks earlier than usual.
On the positive side, the unemployment rate in the metro stands at 7%, or 4.2 percentage points below the national average. But Lancaster County – where Lincoln is located – and Nebraska have seen an increase in the number of new daily cases over the past two weeks, which could threaten plans to reopen subway schools.
Colleges have spent the spring and summer debating how to keep students and employees safe, weighing the potential for an epidemic against the economic fallout from school closures in the 2020 school year. 21. As we noted, some universities have decided to remain closed, while others plan to reopen campuses later this summer and into the fall.
Either decision has economic consequences:
- Areas where schools remain closed will experience immediate economic fallout as businesses struggle to survive and universities consider layoffs – or other layoffs. And the money students typically spend in pizzerias, malls, and elsewhere would not benefit the region economically.
- Areas where schools reopen will face the risk of epidemics. In states where some industries may have reopened, the possibility that local businesses and restaurants would need to shut down again if COVID-19 spreads across campus would cause even bigger waves in the community. As schools reopen, hotels and similar businesses may see short-term increases as colleges determine where to place students who must self-quarantine before arriving on campus.
Many students are waiting to see if universities and colleges will adapt tuition fees learning costs not always taking place on campus.
Some schools, like Princeton University, have announced tuition fee reductions. The New Jersey Ivy League School has said it will cut tuition fees by 10% for the fall when most, if not all, learning takes place at a distance. Meanwhile, schools like William & Mary in Virginia and the University of Kansas City have announced tuition freeze for the next academic year.
Andrew Pentis, senior student loan writer at Student Loan Hero, said he sees how some schools won’t be able to lower tuition fees, but they might find different ways to help keep students on the campus. “This is where schools that are best run businesses… can get creative in ensuring both the safety of their campuses or the effectiveness of their online learning environment,” Pentis said. .
Many universities are already anticipating the increased need for financial assistance as the coronavirus crisis hits families hard.
- Offer incentives for student loans: Metro areas or cities might consider offering loan incentives to prospective students. For example, Maine offers tax relief for those who live and work in the state, among other requirements. Although this is a postgraduate benefit for graduates who pay private loans, a student with a particular city or town in mind might be intrigued to choose a school there if it benefits them for years to come.
- Provide opportunities for working students: Students may be more inclined to relocate to a college town if they have a job or internship planned through their school or a local government initiative. Students might find jobs in the area in grocery stores, restaurants, etc., but not having to search can go a long way for some.
- Bring various businesses to the area: Most students want more than interesting lessons and qualified teachers. They are looking for a comprehensive experience that includes internship potential in their chosen field and a wide range of diverse opportunities that they can put on their resume. Having the right businesses could motivate students to stay in their university town during the winter and summer, thus boosting the local economy. These businesses could also benefit spouses of potential employees who are about to relocate to a particular city. If the good work is there for them too, it can make the family decision easier.
- Promote life experiences: Students move to different cities and states to get an education, as well as to experience different ways of life. The same can be said of college employees. Metropolitan areas can foster life experiences unique to their region, whether it’s hiking in the great outdoors, learning to surf along the coast, or visiting art museums.
- Make the cost of living argument: Some students and employees may find a compelling reason to come to a college town, especially in times of economic uncertainty. Leaving the big cities you may be able to take advantage of lower rents, catering costs and gas prices in rural university towns.