Episode Notes | Episode Transcript

Episode Notes

Episode Title: College News Fit to Digest. May 2, 2020

Episode summary introduction: Making sense of the College News of the week curated by Alma Matters. Coronavirus continues to drive the news. Shveta Bagade, College Counselor gives us her take on the news.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • US Colleges under Financial Pressure  [2:09]
  • International Students in limbo in US after campus closings [9:17]

Our Guest: Shveta Bagade, College Counselor based in Silicon Valley California.

Resources referred to in this episode:


  • Redo the College Lists based on the current events in this episode and we offer a FREE review of the College List by our Counselors. Email the list to podcasts@almamatters.io with the Subject: “College List” along with your profile.
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Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Venkat  0:11  

Hello, and welcome to yet another episode of College News Fit to Digest. Every week, we pick a few news items relating to US Colleges and discuss it with our own Shveta Bagade, College Counselor. Alma Matters curates the news daily relating to US Colleges, and makes it available on alma matters.io/coronavirus. We pick a few news items from that curated list, and discuss it every week here in these podcasts. Now, without further ado, on with the podcast!

Shveta  1:05  

Good Morning.

Venkat  1:06  

Good morning Shveta. How are you?

Shveta  1:09  

Not too bad, Venkat, How are you doing this morning?

Venkat  1:12  

I’m doing well. Thank you. So what do you know we are on the second episode of college news fit to digest so.

Venkat  1:21  

So always good to go from one to two.

Shveta  1:24  

Yeah, who knew there'd be so much to talk about within 7 days?

Venkat  1:28  

You know, I was just thinking before I was getting ready for this, that is probably the fastest growing new segment, you know, in probably the last five years have you know. I don't know how much change colleges go through every year, but not this much! Right?  I mean, that's just [an] amazing amount to that is happening right now. And, there's so much to choose from.

So anyway, just like the first episode, I thought, pick a couple of things. news items that we could drill down a little deeper.

Venkat 2:09 [US Colleges under Financial Pressure]

I wanted to kind of talk about all the budget, budgetary pressure that colleges are facing. And just to set the context, you know there's a whole slew of things that have come out in the last week or so.

First of all, the general feeling across all colleges, I guess, almost 75% of them feel like they're going to hunker down, lay off people, hiring freezes, the endowments for the private colleges are down. So you know, that is also affecting their sort of financial well-being. The State colleges are impacted, you know, bigly, as they say, you know, the States are not getting much revenue and of course, big states like California and New York are suffering. So the state colleges are going to be impacted, enrollment is likely to be down. And then of course, international students are less likely to show up. And they are sort of the lifeblood of a lot of the state colleges, and so on, so forth.

So that's sort of the general picture that's emerging. So I was just thinking that what you thought, I mean, obviously, this is cause for concern, But as we look at students who are incoming students, college students, as well as folks who are looking to apply, what should they be thinking about, and how should they deal with all this information?

Shveta  3:43  

Well, unfortunately, I think they have to just kind of sit tight and wait. There's so much information that's changing almost daily, that it's going to be hard for universities to make some really strong and hard decisions until they have some firm ideas of what is happening.

And on the flip side, they're also making decisions because they don't know what's happening. And they're kind of preparing for the worst.

So at this point, if there's universities that students are interested in, you know, they should be looking at their websites closely. Seeing what directions they're going in. A lot of these universities are really doing a good job of trying to communicate what they're projecting of having to do. And the trickiest ones are the state of the public universities like the University of California system, University of Texas system, the Michigan system, all these big universities that are funded by the state, though their funding is going to be very dependent on the state's budget. I happen to know California’s budget for the education system will come out sometime in mid-May. And that will then impact how the state system and the University of California system will start to make some cuts. So it's gonna be really important to pay attention closely to what is happening right now.

Venkat  5:21  

You don't have the, you know, obviously, everyone's facing this downward pressure. Now, one of the things, I was just thinking that maybe the way to also look at it is where layoffs are happening, you know, which colleges are laying off faculty in particular, or freezing the hiring. And if it's in areas or programs that you're interested in, then that might be a red flag, right? I mean, that might be something to look at. Because right so maybe it's, you know, need, you need to kind of look at the financial I mean, obviously the broader financial health of the university, but look at what specific things they might be, they might or might not be doing.

So now, is that likely to impact the financial aid and stuff? If people are, you know, banking on that or hoping for that?

Shveta  6:17  

Oh, definitely because the universities usually do a lot of financial aid through their budget and and their endowments. So what the, if they're using their endowments for other things to just maintain certain aspects of the university, then it's definitely going to be impacting financial aid. And of course, a lot of financial aid is also done through the federal government. So there's a lot of different avenues for the financial aid to come through. So it's, there's an there's an anticipation, that's also going to be affected greatly. It's going to be really important to honestly, just keep a close eye on what's happening, and just kind of make decisions on as much information that's available out there right now.

Venkat  7:16  

Yeah, I guess, I guess for incoming students for Fall 2020, I mean, you know, they don't have much time, but folks who are applying for 2021, Fall 2021, I think another another indicator would be whether they end up having online classes in fall or whether they end up sort of going on campus, you know, whatever transpires because they go online, it's likely that they're going to lose a lot more money. And so, you know, that might, again factor into that equation.

Shveta  7:52  

Definitely. And I would be looking at that as well like what's happening to the current senior class and if the school has decided to go online, you know, for a quarter or semester.

There's a, there was an article I just read that Stanford is exploring, not doing the entire first semester and starting the school year in January. I'm not even sure what that would look like for somebody who's trying to graduate in four years.

So it's, there's just so many variables, and each university is going to handle it based on, you know, their financial constraints, their population and their staffing as well. How much their staffing can handle that's going to be another factor that comes into play. There's just so many variables, it's really hard. And I don't envy the universities. And I certainly, you know, I have a lot of empathy for these students that haven't tapped to deal with us that are either going to enter college or enter college in the following year, because there's going to be repercussions that the current Junior is going to feel next year as well.

Venkat  9:03  

Sure. Okay, so I guess Stay tuned is the answer to that!

Shveta  9:09  

Yeah, we may have more things come up within the week.

Venkat  9:17  [International Students in limbo in US after campus closings]

Let's move to another topic. And this is, you know, a mixture of sort of sadness and reality, I guess. I mean, this has to do with international students. I mean, as we all know, I mean, the campuses shut down sometime in early March. And a lot of the international students you know, a bunch of them made it back to their home countries, but it looks like quite a few of them couldn't go, and so for a variety of reasons, right, all the way from the country, they were, their home country, the borders closed, like I know [with]India. A couple of kids that I talked to the border had closed, you know, it was closing in like a few hours. So they just made it in the nick of time.

Some of them just had nowhere to go. And, or they didn't have the financial resources to go, in the process lost the campus jobs, they were evicted from the dorms. The dorms were being repurposed for, you know rightfully so, [for a] number of public health related things that were going on.

And so the, the sort of the tragedy of all this is that, all these students come from halfway around the world. They contribute in quite significant way to the economy of the colleges, you know, the numbers at $40 billion or something annually. And it seems like a lot of these students were just in limbo, and that is sort of sad to see. So I sort of wanted you to comment on that,

Now, it's not all bad. I was talking to a freshman from Brown and, where Brown took enormous pains to make sure that international students were informed well, ahead of time so they could get back, for example to India. Same thing heard from Wisconsin Madison, and I'm sure there are a lot of colleges that did a good job. But it seems like it might have been a combination of things. So just wanted [you] to sort of address that. And as, obviously, a lot of the students that we are talking to are international students, this might be something important.

Shveta  11:30  

Oh, definitely. I,  if I were an international student looking at colleges right now, that is the first thing I'd be looking at is how they supported their international students, despite the US government, making it very clear that they're not going to support the international students. So I would definitely be looking closely at that.

I agree, There's some universities have been just doing a really great job of taking care of their students and some have just kind of left them hanging in the wind to figure it out on their own, though, there is information out there that's available, and they just need to kind of research it and find out, like how, how the students were, you know, assisted with housing or paid for flights to go home before borders were closed. Or if they were just kind of kicked out of the dorm and left to their own resources to sort of figure it out and rely on the kindness of people.

So I would definitely be doing a lot of research on that, because God forbid, this happens again or something else similar happens. They want to know that the university is going to take care of them. And I find a lot of the smaller universities tend to do more of a you know, kind of “taking care of their students approach” than the bigger universities. I'm not saying, they, big universities don't it just vary so much. So it's another thing to look at, as well as, you know, some of these smaller universities that are not well known, but do a really good job of making sure their international students are, you know, in good hands, at least.

Venkat  13:23  

Absolutely, absolutely,

Venkat  13:24

unfortunately, turned out to be a one two punch because they normally, you know, had to get off campus, but they couldn't get into the online classes because they didn't have access to, you know, the resources so that they could attend those classes. So I think I think it has been, overall, really sad, sad sort of situation.

Venkat  13:46  

No, I agree with you about using this or, you know, this is a very valuable parameter because it's in some sense, also speaks to the character of the college to some degree And I think that is that is really important. So,

Venkat  14:05  

so fantastic. So I think,

Venkat  14:09  

you know, as we, as we said so at the outset, lot, a lot going on a lot of things just in, work in progress. So I guess we will meet again next week and talk about what went on. But thank you so much for making the time today and shedding some light on these topics.

Shveta  14:28  

My pleasure.

Venkat  14:31  

Hi again, hope you enjoyed this conversation with Shweta Bugatti on this week's College News Fit to Digest. Based on the news items we discussed today, it would be wise for students applying for the fall 2021 semester to take a relook at their college lists and revise them. We would be happy to review it for you if you email it to us at podcasts at alma matters.io. We would be happy to send you our feedback.

Hope you enjoyed this conversation today. And hope you continue to listen to our podcasts. Till we meet again. Take care and be safe!

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