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Episode Notes

Episode Title: College News Fit to Digest. September 4, 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:

  • Univ of California asked to go “Test Blind” [1:20]
  • Status of Colleges Fall Reopening [6:42]

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

Resources referred to in this episode:

Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode Transcript.


Episode Transcript

Transcript of the episode’s audio.

Venkat  0:12 

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!

Venkat  1:02  

Good morning!

Shveta  1:04  

Good morning Venkat. How are you?

Venkat  1:06  

Doing very well. How are you?

Shveta  1:08  


Venkat  1:10  

Fabulous. So ready for the long weekend?

Shveta  1:13  

Um. Sure.


Venkat  1:16


Shveta  1:18  

Is it a weekend...Or is it just?

Venkat  1:20  [Univ of California asked to go “Test Blind”]

Yeah, it's a, it's a continuation. Yeah, it's a continuation.

Yeah. So, Okay, so I guess we have a couple of big topics we want to talk about today. I think the first one which could be a seminal one, is a judge in California rule that the UCs, the University of California that is can no longer use the SAT ACT test results when they are under the test or optional policy because it unfairly benefits those who have taken the test, because they get a second look, as opposed to those who don't.

And so I guess the judge is pushing them towards being test blind rather than test optional. So what do you, what do you make of all that?

Shveta  2:13  

Yeah, it's interesting, cuz, um, I, I read last night about it as well. And I think the drive behind this was about test takers with disabilities having major implications on those particular students.

And, what's interesting is that, the UC system has to come out with their official statement of how they're going to handle this campus by campus. Um, because I'm sure there's a lot of details and like exceptions and things that are made within the ruling. But this is actually a huge step for kind of showing that test scores, ACT and SAT scores probably shouldn't be used, and so there's a lot of people who've been criticizing College Board and the ACT organization of how they've handled everything and prior to COVID, and how, with the COVID situation, just how, you know, there's a big imbalance of what's happening and things like that.

So, it should be interesting how this plays out in the future, especially as, especially if COVID continues, does it? But, um, yeah, this is, this is kind of big. It's not just impacting the UCs. I think this will become a national impact eventually, as, as other people recognize their need to do that in their States as well.

Venkat  3:48  

Yeah, that's an interesting stat. I was reading that 60% of the colleges in the US are Test Optional, under this you know, under this brand pandemic or as the pandemic unfolds, but there are only 57 campuses that are test blind, right?

It's, you know, really very few are even in that test blind category. So this is going to be a seismic change.

Shveta  4:19  

No, and I don't know how that number that you got is calculated, but if they, if they count every single individual campus 23 of those are California State University campuses that are test blind. So if that number is calculated that way, by each individual campus, not and not by system, that's really a telling story. When you think about how, you know how many universities are in this country.

So yeah, it's, it's interesting how this is really kind of putting to the forefront the value and possibly even the need for testing scores.

Venkat  5:04  

Yeah, yeah, I mean, I think I think, at the end of the day, in this narrow situation, I do think that the, you know, there are multiple things, right, folks who students were able to take the test before the pandemic broke, folks who somehow have been able to take the test, because the tests have been canceled in some places, it's, you know, held in others.

So, it certainly provides people who've been able to take the test and have a decent score to get an edge or someone who couldn't for all kinds of reasons take the test. So, yeah, I mean, I do think that at that narrow level, then of course, the broader social aspect of it is very different and probably worthy of, you know, appropriate sort of action but, but yeah, so. So things are “amoving” as they say, in this, this area So, so um, okay, so I guess, I guess there'll be some response from the UCs and we'll go from there. It's going to impact 2021 admissions right now. So whatever comes in, end of this year.

Venkat  6:22  

Cool. Anything else on this topic or...

Shveta  6:28

Not on the test scores. I mean, COVID is just, you know, it's in our face already. And now the universities are dealing with it as best as they can. So we could talk about that.

Venkat  6:42  [Status of Colleges Fall Reopening]

Yes, sure. So it looks like you know, if you just look, do a quick survey, it sounds like colleges that made whatever decision the ones that made the decision to have in-class or on-campus instruction, there are some that are continuing to move forward, some that have hit the pause button, and some that have reversed course, right?

The ones that have hit the pause button are saying, okay, we're going to freeze for a couple of weeks and come back. And some, some that are just plowing forward, you know, this is what we plan to do, stay on campus. And notably, quite a few have reversed course, like UC Santa Barbara decided to go all online, etc. So, you know, people are, you know, wherever as appropriate, people are making decisions, but it's kind of all over the map. Right. And it's, it's while one can argue that it is based on science and based on local facts, it's not. I mean, I don't know enough about each of the, you know, States and locations these colleges are but it does sound like decisions are being made independently, and by each school as they should, but the guidelines probably aren't being met as per CDC or otherwise.

Shveta  8:09  

Oh, yeah, you know, it's interesting because this, I read an article in the, um, the Chronicle of Higher Education where it's kind of an update. It's a little bit dated already, even though it was August 25. So it’s been about a week.

And what it's showing is that little by little, each University that decided to go in-person has now either taken a break to go online or has just decided we're just going to go online for the entire semester or quarter, right, then, then you've got the ones that have already gone online, but they're seeing students on go off-campus to apartment parties and things like that, that are all, like, impacting their numbers. And so this, I mean that it's University after University, and then there's universities that, you know, we're supposed to be handling this very well, but if their students don't follow the rules, then you're, you're having, you know, high COVID numbers.

So it's just, it's crazy. And the Universities are literally, honestly, they're kind of going with the flow of it. They're, they're trying to make a decision that works for everybody in keeping everybody safe. But trying to have that college experience that a lot of kids want to have, whether they're freshmen, or seniors, even seniors, this is their last year they want to kind of go out on a bang, and  going online is not really ideal. So to be able to, at least be on campus helps. But if the numbers keep going up, it's going to be a problem.

And then I don't know if you saw this. I saw this on the news, actually last night, that the Doctor Fauci, the one who's been very, you know, public over the past, I guess, oh my God, six months. I just realized it's been six months, Um, he's basically saying, it's not a good idea to send students home, the ones that are closing their campus and closing the dorms, because now you're spreading the  disease, almost randomly, if the students are asymptomatic, and they just don't know they have COVID or the ones who do have COVID and you're sending them home to their families.

So this whole thing is crazy and not having a uniform policy, and all these different factors that are coming into play are really impacting each University's decision.

Venkat  10:59  

Yeah, I saw that too. And I think, I think Georgia [colleges in Georgia] or someplace, had asked, you know, has basically asked its students who tested positive to go home. And so there's obviously conflicting things going on between colleges and their health experts.

In fact, the other thing that.. regard to students, there are apparently students who, even though this college might be hybrid, or they've, you know, they don't necessarily have all in, in class or on campus, the students however, a lot of them are coming to the campus town and staying off campus. And maybe they are, you know, practicing social distancing, etc. But this, the students especially as you pointed out, seniors want to be able to hang out, you know, safely with their friends, quote, unquote. But that is, again, a recipe for outbreaks because you know, how discipline and how much control is that, you know, are they gonna have and so you've got sort of a really a powder keg situation with a lot of these moving parts and there's really no, no way for any, any school or anybody to really keep track of all this other than individual responsibility.

 So, so it's tough. I mean, it's it's and yeah, I mean, I think, I think the number of cases seem to [have] obviously shot up on campuses in the last month and as, as to be just to be expected. I mean, it I think it's more about what to do when, when it does.

Shveta  12:38  

Yeah, I will make one comment though. Not to to belabor this topic, but what I think also interesting is, I've been talking to kind of, random people whose children are in college and their their perspective on this is very different, and but they all had something interesting to say is universities that are kind of, they dominate the town, on college town kind of say you think of like Purdue [University], for instance, is the reason why that town exists mentality versus a school like in a city. Right.

And what the point was actually one of the parents made to me, which is really interesting is that, you know, if you're in a town like Purdue where it's already kind of self-isolated, it's easier to control the COVID cases, even off campus, right? Because there's just not much around, but you take cities like, you know, LA or San Diego or Atlanta, things like that, um, even if the students are being safe, that doesn't mean the people in the city that they're living in are being safe, and so they get exposed, even if they're just maybe running to the Walmart to buy, you know, juice or, you know, snacks, their dorm room, kind of thing.

So there's this whole thing about, you know, they want to blame the students and I see that, but there's this whole perspective that they're forgetting is that even the towns that they're in may not be as safe as we would like them to be, because people aren't following, you know, wearing masks or using hand sanitizer and social distancing and things like that.

So, yeah, it's I, it's a crazy time, hoping, you know, at this point for the students that this semester is kind of it is what it is, and hopefully you get a fresh start in, in January.

Venkat  14:45  

Yeah, yeah, I think I think, I think if, if they all sort of made a decision and just went into some some sort of whether it is isolation mode, or you know, they're on campus, or in a campus town, then put the appropriate protocols in place and you know, and then trust each person to follow them and have some, you know, have the old trust but verify kind of model. So, you know, unfortunately they cannot test any of these guys because we don't have enough testing, which is a different problem…


Shveta  15:20

Separate Problem...

Venkat  15:21  

So, well, all that is a way of saying, it's, it's a big mess, so...


Venkat 15:31  

Okay. Okay, so let's wrap up here then for today. And you have a great long weekend, and we'll meet again next week, and see what has changed.

Shveta  15:46  

Yeah, thank you.

Venkat  15:48

Okay, take care. Be safe.

Bye. Bye.

Venkat  16:00

Hi again, hope you enjoyed this conversation with Shveta Bagade on this week's College News Fit to Digest. Stay connected with us by Subscribing to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify or visit anchor.fm forward slash almamatters [anchor.fm/almamatters].

These podcasts are brought to you by almamatters.io. Till we meet again, take care and be safe.

Thank you.

Summary Keywords

College, Universities, Test Optional, Test Blind, Purdue University, University of California Santa Barbara, California State University, SAT, ACT, Campus, International students, Alma Matters, Podcasts, Ivy League, Fall Reopening, COVID-19, Coronavirus.

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