WOOSTER, Ohio – Sarah Bolton, currently in her fourth year as president of The College of Wooster, was among a small group of higher education experts who were featured prominently in “How College Leaders Are Planning for the Fall,” an article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education on April 17.
Preparations for the coming academic year have been thrown for a loop by the coronavirus pandemic, and though there’s no reliable prediction on what the impact of the virus will look like come August, Wooster has gained some attention for its handling of the crisis and ensuing preparation by the Chronicle, the leading news source for higher education.
The spring semester was saved by a quick pivot to online learning, the article contends and then wonders what does the fall semester hold for colleges, of all types, across the U.S. It covers a wide range of issues, including when it’s safe to bring students back versus continued remote education, whether college-bound high school students are rethinking their plans, and the virus’ financial impact on colleges as well as on students and their families.
With an enrollment that includes nearly 20 percent international students, the coronavirus epidemic was being tracked by Wooster earlier than most, according to Bolton. That allowed Wooster’s admissions office to begin recruiting such students virtually sooner, which carried over to domestic students, an advantage that has resulted in being “40 deposits ahead of where it was last year, including students from more than two dozen countries.”
The coronavirus has also impacted many current students economic status, an issue that Bolton is particularly sensitive to. She noted the returning students “whose families had difficult financial circumstances before the pandemic are likely to be the ones who’ve been hit even harder by the pandemic,” thus Wooster is being flexible. Since financial aid is largely determined by tax forms from the previous year, that formula is “almost irrelevant for where people are now … (so) we really want to be thoughtful about that,” she added.
As for the value of Wooster’s liberal arts education, it is directly related to its renowned faculty who Bolton praised for their adjustment to what is hopefully a short-term solution of online learning. “It looks as much as it can like a small-college education, rendered in a way that serves students who are across the country and around the world while they’re doing it,” she said.
The complete article is available at chronicle.com (there is a paywall).