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Students in Coronavirus Limbo as they face May 1 US College Decision Day

Fewer international students are likely to pay the $500 non-refundable tuition deposit to enroll for the upcoming academic year
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   01-05-2020

Students in Coronavirus Limbo as they face May 1 US College Decision Day

Traditionally, May 1 is College Decision Day for prospective students bound for colleges in America. That’s the deadline for incoming freshmen to commit to a US school and pay a $500 non-refundable tuition deposit toward their tuition, due later in the summer. It’s normally a happy day that caps an important decision in a young adult’s life.

But things are hellishly complicated this year.

Decision day is sending students and their families into paroxysms of stress as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic queers the pitch. A majority of students around the world are filled with anxiety and uncertainty about their college plans.

Most significantly, fewer international students are likely to enroll for the upcoming academic year, which will be problematic for the US colleges that bank on them.

A sharp decline in international students

“A lot of international students from places like India and China will forgo studying here because there are too many imponderables. With COVID-19 still raging they don’t want to take a decision in the dark,” New York-based college admissions expert Teressa Peugeot told Braingain Magazine.   

“The current pandemic throws up concerns about restrictive visa policies and travel restrictions. Families in the US now want their kids to be in-state. So, imagine how worried a mom in Delhi would be about sending her kid to New York at a time of uncertainty,” she added.

The American Council on Education (ACE) predicts enrollment nationwide will drop 15%, including a decline of 25% for international students — costing institutions $23 billion in revenue.

ACE and other higher education institutions are asking Congress for $46.6 billion in emergency aid for students and institutions to ease the damage.

Turns out that the majority, or 70%, of all students this year will stay within 180 miles, or roughly three hours, of their family’s home to attend college, according to The Princeton Review.

Indian students may regard a foreign degree as a badge of honor but for many Indian parents, who partly or wholly fund the exercise, expense is the operative word and remote classes just don’t cut it, according to many.

It’s very possible that members of the class of 2024 will begin the “best four years of their lives” in September on a laptop in their childhood bedrooms.

Deferring admission until 2021

“If my kid isn’t actually going to be physically present in a classroom in America, why not just defer for a year and save the money? Why throw good money on online classes when she could do an internship in India, or charity work,” said a parent who did not want to be named.

“It is stressful for kids in India to tune into online classes in the middle of the night because of the time zone,” he added.

Typically, international students from India and China go to schools in major US cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City which are hardest hit by the pandemic.

The flow of international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-2019 academic year, according to the non-profit NAFSA: Association of International Educators organization.

“I do think the incoming freshman class will look different,” Faye Tydlaska, a vice president of enrollment management at Rollins College in Orlando, Florida, told CNBC.

“We may see more of a local or in-state population,” she added. “I worry about the international population.”

Gap years are now on the table

It appears that a year off is appealing to freaked-out teens.

Christopher Rim, a college admissions consultant, told US media about 75% of his senior students have already said they will take a gap year.

“They have said they just don’t want to start in the fall. They want the college experience,” says Rim, whose company Command Education caters to New York-area students aiming for elite schools. “Who wants to pay 80 grand to learn online?”

Some parents are comfortable paying a deposit to secure their child’s spot in hopes that things will eventually limp back to normal. Still kids and their parents are struggling to figure out what the next year — or four — holds. Gap years are now on the table, as are less-expensive local schools.

“If we had even a smidgen of clarity as to what would happen two or three months down the line, we would be more relaxed,” said Sarosh Shrestha, a student from Nepal, who plans to attend Miami University in September.

Some US colleges extend deadline to June

A lot of the US college are sticking to the May 1 deadline. But almost 400 colleges and universities have pushed back their decision day by at least a month.

According to CNN, Texas Christian University was one of the first schools to extend the deadline to June.

"We felt really strongly that during this period of crisis, when students' and families' lives were being upended that we, as an institution, wanted to do everything in our power to alleviate rather than add on any stress to the decision-making that's inherent in the college selection process," said Texas Christian University Dean of Admissions Heath Einstein.

"How can you look at this really uncertain world and have a family say, 'Yeah I can look at this situation and feel like I am confident I have $75,000 to spend?'" Marie Bigham, founder of ACCEPT, told CNN.



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