Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 6
'Summer Melt' Could Be a Flood
As Seniors Shift College Plans
By Gabrielle Wanneh
Ever since she began high school,
18-year-old Alexis Campbell, a senior at Fayette County High School in
Fayetteville, Ga., dreamed of going to
college somewhere out of state-possibly New York or Massachusetts. The
coronavirus pandemic has forced her
to reconsider her options.
Alexis is not alone. The COVID-19
crisis and its fallout are prompting
many members of the Class of 2020
to rethink their post-high school plans.
Their reasons vary. Some worry
about how to pay for tuition amid a
gathering recession. For others, it's
frustration over the difficulty they're
encountering as they try to work with
shuttered colleges and universities.
Concerns about health risks and uneasiness with the prospect of remote
learning play a big part as well.
The result of all this anxiety and
uncertainty, experts predict, will be
classes this fall in colleges and universities across the nation-and the
fall-off is expected to be especially
sharp for first-generation students
and those from low-income families.
Courtesy of Alexis Campbell
High school senior Alexis
Campbell of Fayetteville,
Ga., visited George
in Washington D.C., before
the coronavirus pandemic
forced schools to shut
down on-campus tours for
prospective students. Now
she is considering whether
to enroll in a school closer
to home in the fall.
Students get detoured every year
between the time they're accepted to
college and the first day of classes-
so much so that the phenomenon
has a name, "summer melt." Collegegoing plans of as many as 40 percent of students dissolve in a typical
summer melt, according to Reach
Higher, an initiative begun by former first lady Michelle Obama. But
experts predict this year's melt may
be the worst one yet.
Cirkled In, a student portfolio platform, recently surveyed colleges and
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6 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 13, 2020 | www.edweek.org
prospective students on college-going
plans for next year. Of the 33 college
and university admissions officials
who responded, 87 percent said they
expected a higher-than-normal melt
in the fall. Among the more than 1,100
students polled, 22 percent said the
coronavirus crisis has pushed them to
rethink their college plans.
"The results that we saw were not
surprising but very sobering," said
Cirkled In CEO Reetu Gupta said.
"COVID is changing the direction of
life for some of these kids."
In Alexis's case, the chief worry is
her health. She has asthma and the
prospect of getting sick far from home
has made her anxious.
"Not only do I not know if those
schools will be open, but I also have to
consider my health," she said. "Some
of my colleges haven't extended their
deadlines yet and I find it impossible
to be able to say that I'll be going to a
school when I don't even know if that
school will be open.
"Not having colleges to be able to
accommodate students at this time
has been a real struggle," she added.
"The coronavirus has definitely
changed the way that I'm even looking at higher education right now."
In Philadelphia, the main concern
for 18-year-old Justin Hall, a senior at
the Mastery High School campus in
Camden, N.J., is money.
Hall was accepted into all the
schools he applied to, including his
current top picks of Morehouse College, Penn State-University Park, and
the University of Virginia.
"The reason I haven't committed
yet, however, is because none of those
schools have given me a financial aid
offer yet," Hall said.
Hall received a full tuition scholarship to Alabama A&M University,
a former top school of his, and had
plans on visiting the campus earlier this month. But Hall grew less
inclined to go after the campus can-
celled in-person tours to prevent the
spread of the virus.
"A virtual tour just won't give you
the vibes that an in-person tour will
give you," he said.
Between him and his brother both
working essential jobs and his grandparents pitching in to help, Hall and his
family are able to manage their household income even though his mother
no longer works. Still, Hall said that at
this point, where he enrolls in the fall
depends primarily on which school offers the most financial aid.
Learning by Laptop
With no definitive end in sight for
the pandemic, some colleges are
openly preparing for the possibility
that they may be forced to turn to remote instruction in the fall. That's a
prospect that worries Campbell and
other students-even some who are
already enrolled as undergraduates.
"I refuse to pay for an education I
don't feel I can grasp completely, and
I refuse to waste an entire semester
of my college life," wrote rising junior Lauren Mun in an opinion essay
published in Rutgers University's student newspaper, the Daily Targum.
"I would rather wait to attend school
normally than continue to attend
through my laptop."
Lance Dronkers, a guidance counselor at Mastery Charter Schools, has
heard those concerns, especially now
as high school students at his school
struggle with their distance-learning
classes. He said he has begun suggesting that students opt for local colleges in case the schools can't open in
the fall "so as not to pay too much in
financial aid for an experience that
would be held on online."
For their part, higher education institutions, organizations, and state
governments have been scrambling to
adjust programming and requirements
to better support graduating students
whose transitions to college are getting
caught up in the COVID bind.
As of this week, nearly every state
has relaxed graduation requirements
for high school seniors, according to
an Education Week analysis. And a
growing number of colleges and universities have extended acceptance
deadlines to June 1 and are waiving
requirements for students to submit
SAT or ACT scores.
Drawing on studies showing that
text nudges on cellphones can be
helpful in staving off summer melt,
the Reach Higher Initiative rolled
out an artificial intelligence-powered
chatbot last month to provide ready
answers to students' questions and
send reminders of upcoming college
registration, financial aid, and enrollment deadlines, which is often where
students trip up on the road to college.
"We've been really concerned about
what COVID-19 means for some of
our most vulnerable students," said
Eric Waldo, executive director of
Reach Higher. "We're worried about
how they might be making their college decisions, how they might be
looking at their financial aid offers,
how they plan on going to school."
The free chatbot, developed in
partnership with the CommonApp,
the College Advising Corps, and AdmitHub, is targeting 200,000 low-income, first-generation college goers
through the CommonApp. Questions
that the chatbot cannot answer on
its own will be fielded by the College
Advising Corps, which recruits recent
college graduates to coach students
through the college-going process.
"We know that students are really
worried about the future and while
not being able to interact with counselors, this will be able to provide
them with 24/7 support," Waldo said.
Similarly, the America's Promise
Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to
improving the conditions of adult
success for young people, released
guidance in April through their GradNation campaign to assist policymakers, educators, and community
leaders in making well-informed decisions to help high school students
during this uncertain time.
High schools and colleges all need
to support and encourages students
to curb what could be a higher than
usual summer melt, said Alexandria
Walton Radford, the director of the
Center for Applied Research in Postsecondary Education at the American
Institutes of Research.
"Once you've taken care of food,
shelter, and mental health, you really
want to be doing all you can to make
sure students are getting as prepared
for college as they can," Radford said.
Coverage of the experiences of low-income,
high-achieving students is supported in
part by a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke
Foundation, at www.jkcf.org. Education
Week retains sole editorial control over the
content of this coverage.
Education Week - May 13, 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 13, 2020
Education Week - May 13, 2020
Collapse: Coronavirus Will Make Inequalities in Public Schools Even Worse
Remembering 18-Year-Old Who Died From Coronavirus
‘Summer Melt’ Could Be a Flood As Seniors Shift College Plans
Schools Struggle to Meet Students’ Mounting Mental-Health Needs
7 Big Issues for Unions and Districts in Remote Teaching Agreements
District Hard-Hit by COVID-19 Begins ‘Tough Work’ of Getting On
Right-to-Education Ruling Jolts Advocacy World
Teachers Without Internet Work In Parking Lots, Empty School Building During COVID-19
What We Can Still Learn From Hurricane Katrina
A Blueprint for Reopening Schools This Fall
The Sleeping Giant: Emotional Trauma
Letters to the Editor
EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Collapse: Coronavirus Will Make Inequalities in Public Schools Even Worse
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 2
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Briefly Stated
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 4
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Remembering 18-Year-Old Who Died From Coronavirus
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - ‘Summer Melt’ Could Be a Flood As Seniors Shift College Plans
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 7
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Schools Struggle to Meet Students’ Mounting Mental-Health Needs
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 9
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 10
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 7 Big Issues for Unions and Districts in Remote Teaching Agreements
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 12
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 13
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - District Hard-Hit by COVID-19 Begins ‘Tough Work’ of Getting On
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 15
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Right-to-Education Ruling Jolts Advocacy World
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Teachers Without Internet Work In Parking Lots, Empty School Building During COVID-19
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - What We Can Still Learn From Hurricane Katrina
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - The Sleeping Giant: Emotional Trauma
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - Letters to the Editor
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 21
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 22
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - EdWeek Top School Jobs
Education Week - May 13, 2020 - 24