Is college worth it? Experts weigh the impact COVID-19 has on college bound students

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — As the country continues to struggle on how to manage the economic fallout for those in the workforce, those looking to go to college have tough decisions to make as well.

Now financial and educations experts are examining the choice college ready students have to make in the era of COVID-19.

Health experts have expressed the likelihood that COVD-19 will return in the fall. Financial expert Peter Dunn says due to that likelihood, it may make more sense for some to reevaluate their plans for college.

“For a lot of people, they get a very expensive education that they have no means to pay back. And one of the interesting aspects of what we’re dealing with now is that problem may begin to shake itself out. If you want to get a college degree, by all means do it, but if you want to do it because of the experience on campus and all of these other things, that may not be around in the fall,” Dunn said.

Student loan debt is one of the fastest growing issues in the country. Some estimates say the average borrower owes roughly 30,000 dollars after four years. For financial guys like Dunn, the math doesn’t add up, particularly when you factor in coronavirus.

“Why not sit out a semester or a year, in the form of a virtual semester, or online alternative, or I think the gap year is going to become wildly popular. Students will just say you ‘know what, I’m good. I’ll see you next fall’,” Dunn said.

For those that still want to pursue their college education, Dunn suggests institutions may see a late push from students, who originally planned to attend school out of state, but now are opting to stay local.

At places like IUPUI, school officials are preparing for that reality.

“We are hearing that students are thinking about staying local,” Assoc. Vice chancellor for enrollment management at IUPUI Boyd Bradshaw said.

Bradshaw says because of the uncertainty they’ve extended several admissions deadlines, which will give prospective students more time to make arrangements. A move designed to account for those who may now opt to stay closer to home in the face of a pandemic.

“I know that financially it’s a challenge for a lot of families, but we’re doing all we can to assist as much as possible … we want students to know that there’s still plenty of time to make that decision.”

Still, Bradshaw admits that COVID-19 has had other effects on IUPUI.

“It’s affecting all of us, not only from a budgetary point of view, but also how we think about higher ed, and how we offer higher education in the future,”

Bradshaw adds that IUPUI is going through a very aggressive planning process for fall, but have not made a decision as to their exact direction.

Both Dunn and Bradshaw say whatever decision college bound students make, it should be personal and should be tailored to their particular situation.

Dunn adds trade jobs may see a spike in popularity due to tough financial choices needing to be made.

The push for college education in recent years has drawn many people away from in-demand, well-paying trades that don’t require debt. Coronavirus and financial concerns may cause the scales to shift back (slightly) the other way.

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