Citing the unprecedented emergency the coronavirus pandemic poses to the financial health of colleges and universities — and the disproportionate impact of college closures on low-income students and students of color — the National Governors Association and New America have released a guide for states in managing college closures.
“Ultimately, states should put the impact that closures have on students at the center of their decision making and policy interventions. We hope this primer for governors will help them do that,” Clare McCann, deputy director for federal policy at New America’s higher education program, said via email.
More than 500,000 college students were displaced by roughly 1,200 campus closures between 2014 and 2019, according to the report. Some of those institutions closed precipitously and without enough warning for students or staff members, leaving many thousands of students in debt and with doubts about the future of their educations.
The primer says,
Governors have considerable opportunity to use the regulatory guardrails already in place and take proactive measures to ensure that students receive proper communication from closing institutions, have a realistic opportunity to complete their degree or credential, and are not left in financial ruin when their institutions close before they can graduate. This resource is meant to be a primer on the state role in quality assurance and consumer protection. It also offers a guide for prospective state action to forecast and manage institutional closures induced by COVID-19.
Among recommendations from the two groups is a call for states to monitor colleges’ financial status and to identify those that are most at risk. In planning for possible closures, states should require teach-out plans and agreements from high-risk institutions, with a goal of protecting and providing clear information to students.
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