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From: Megan Zahneis

Subject: Your Daily Briefing: Why the Pandemic Hasn't Meant Doomsday for Higher Ed

Welcome to Wednesday, May 12. Today, we explain why the dire warnings of financial calamity and mass closures last spring, summer, and fall have largely not come to pass. We chart how much colleges will receive from the government’s new Covid-19 aid package. And disability-rights advocates say the move to remote instruction has been a boon for some students with disabilities.

Today’s Briefing was written by Megan Zahneis, with contributions from Julia Piper. Write us:

The doomsday predictions for higher ed, and why they didn’t come to pass.

Last spring, many college leaders, pundits, and observers expected most colleges to endure a doomsday scenario — plunges in enrollment and tuition revenue — in the fall. A wave of room-and-board refunds and PPE, plexiglass, and webcam purchases left institutions gushing red ink. Some states were projecting double-digit declines in tax revenues, boding ill for support of public colleges. Surveys indicated that many college-bound seniors were second-guessing their plans to attend four-year institutions that might, or might not, hold classes in persons. Some analysts forecast waves of heavy revenue losses and college closures.

But the sky didn’t fall, at least not on everyone. As in the broader society, the pandemic disproportionately affected lower-income and minority communities. Community colleges, which often serve those populations, saw enrollments drop steeply. But many four-year institutions lost relatively few students. State tax bases proved more resilient than expected. While the pandemic has had a significant and likely lasting impact on colleges, it hasn’t proved to be the financial disaster widely anticipated a year ago. Our Lee Gardner explains why.

Quick hits.

  • How much aid will your college receive in the federal government’s newest Covid-19 package? Find out here. (The Chronicle)
  • Undocumented and international college students can now get pandemic-relief grants after Education Secretary Miguel Cardona lifted a ban imposed by his predecessor, Betsy DeVos. (The Washington Post)
  • A Georgetown University anthropology professor who was denied tenure alleges procedural failures and discrimination in his case. (The Hoya)
  • Instructors at the City College of San Francisco will take pay cuts as high as 11 percent to avoid 163 layoffs and a number of course offerings being eliminated, under a one-year contract the institution’s trustees voted to accept on Monday. (KQED)
  • The Johns Hopkins University alumnus Michael Bloomberg is donating $150 million to the institution to diversify its STEM doctoral programs. The gift raises to $3.5 billion the amount the billionaire has donated to his alma mater, the most given by a single philanthropist to any college in the U.S. (The Washington Post)

How the pandemic has increased access for some students with disabilities.

The pandemic has accelerated the conversation about disability accommodations on college campuses, as long-requested accommodations once labeled impossible, like remote learning and recorded lectures, were universally adopted overnight. Some disabled students have enjoyed degrees of access in virtual-learning environments that they’d never had in physical ones.

And now, as many colleges roll out plans for a return to “normal” this fall, those students, and disability activists, are questioning the way people conceive of normalcy — and whether or not it’s a state that’s even desirable to return to. Serena Puang has the story.

Comings and goings.

  • Shontay Delalue, vice president for institutional equity and diversity at Brown University, has been named the first senior vice president and senior diversity officer at Dartmouth College.
  • Terrence Cheng, director of the Stamford campus of the University of Connecticut, will become president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system on July 2. He will replace Jane Gates, who became interim president after Mark Ojakian retired.
  • Stacy Goodwin Lightfoot, executive vice president of the Public Education Foundation, has been named the first vice chancellor for diversity and engagement at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.


Greg Britton, editorial director of the Johns Hopkins University Press, made a confession on Twitter the other day. “Every now and then, I spot a Higher Ed book I wish I had published,” Britton wrote. “This one hounds me.” The title? The Canine-Campus Connection: Roles for Dogs in the Lives of College Students.

The new book discusses the psychological benefits that having pooches around — whether they’re trained therapy dogs, service dogs, or emotional-support animals — can have for students and for colleges. As the editor, Mary Renck Jalongo, told Inside Higher Ed, dogs can even be a recruitment tool, “with various higher-education institutions promoting the fact that they offer at least one pet-friendly residence hall.”

Purdue University Press, which publishes The Canine-Campus Connection, was sympathetic to Britton’s plight, responding to him on Twitter, “That sounds ruff! At least you can fetch yourself a copy.”

Pup puns aside, what higher-ed topics do you wish you could find books — or, ahem, even Chronicle coverage — on? Tell me about it.

Megan Zahneis, a staff reporter for The Chronicle, writes about graduate-student issues and the future of the faculty. Follow her on Twitter at @meganzahneis, or email her at