Reporters Roundtable On Vaccines and Visas

Monday, May 3, 2021 - As the academic year comes to a close, Jeff and Michael spoke with higher education reporters from the Washington Post, NPR, and the Chronicle for HIgher Education and Open Campus about their perspective on the past year and what the future will hold for campuses—including the stories that they believe aren't being discussed nearly enough.

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Michael Horn:

Jeff, I saw recently that you were on the CBS this morning show a few weeks ago, being interviewed about this wild college admission season that we're in. It's just remarkable how after years of being in the backwater of news higher ed is suddenly leading the news many weeks.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. Michael, the story of how that CBS interview was conducted is one for another day. It was from the back of a van outside my house. But I think your point about higher ed suddenly being the hot beat is a good one. And on today's episode of Future U, we're bringing back an audience favorite, the Reporters' Roundtable.

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This episode of Future U is brought to you by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by BVK, visit bvk.com to learn about changing your university's focus from surviving to thriving. Thank you to our sponsors for making Future U possible. Subscribe to Future U wherever you get your podcasts and follow us on Twitter at the handle Future U. Podcast. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please leave us a five-star rating, so others can discover the conversations we're having about higher education.

Michael Horn:

I'm Michael Horn.

Jeff Selingo:

And I'm Jeff Selingo. So, we're really excited for this episode of Future U because it includes reporters whose work we admire and read or listen to almost daily. But first, Michael, let's give some background to our listeners who might pay only faint attention, maybe to the state of the education beat at news outlets. I was reading the latest education writers association, state of the education beat survey recently. And there's this one stat I think sums up where we are today. Just 12% of survey respondents at general, interest newspapers said their education staffs have grown in the past two years, while 39% said they've declined.

Michael Horn:

It's a striking statistic, Jeff. And I think sometimes with the explosion of information about higher ed, these days on social media and outlets like Forbes, where I'm a contributor on all the newsletters that we get and even podcasts like this one, we just don't realize how much has been lost. We no longer have those boots on the ground, if you will. There's just a real lack of reporters during the day in and day out, work of reporting, even on their local communities, their schools, colleges, and students. And there's a quote from a newspaper journalist in the EWA study that you sent me that I just wanted to read. And it says, "When I was an intern, eight years ago, we had five P-12 education reporters." Said the report. And then as of this year, the only P-12 education reporter in our staff is me.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. It's quite shocking. I think. And today we have three national reporters with us, and this is the third time we've done an episode like this in the last two seasons, and it seems really popular with our listeners. So we're definitely going to bring it back next season. And I think we're going to try to bring on some local reporters for sure. But for today's episode, we're welcoming Elissa Nadworny, who's a higher ed reporter from NPR. And as soon as I think you hear her voice, I'm sure you'll recognize it from NPR. We also have Nick Anderson, a long time, higher ed reporter and editor at the Washington Post, and Karin Fischer, who has been on the show before and who writes for the Chronicle of higher education.

Jeff Selingo:

And if you're interested in international higher ed writes a weekly must read newsletter called latitudes for open campus, which is a nonprofit news organization that is rethinking local reporting oncologists by combining national reporting with community newsrooms. Thanks to all of you for joining us. So let's start off with a question for each of you because you're all covering a beat that seems over the last year to have occupied an unusually large proportion of front page stories or pieces that have led the national broadcast media. One might assume that's good news for the state of the higher education beat itself. So how would you describe the health of the higher ed beat when it comes to getting attention in your own newsrooms? And Nick, let's start with you because you've been probably doing this the longest.

Nick Anderson:

I think that there's an enormous appetite amongst our editors and our readers for higher education news of all sorts during the pandemic, from the outset in March of 2020, when the earthquake really started rolling through campuses and dorms were shut down and students were sent home and virtual teaching became the norm. It's been a non-stop appetite for our stories. And what's fascinating to me is that, that appetite has continued even as there have been of course, enormous social and political forces rolling through the country. We're obviously covering the racial reckoning on college campuses that is intense and unfolding in very interesting ways.

Nick Anderson:

The presidential election had huge effects on campuses. And so, I have been heartened by the interest that has persisted in the pandemic situation for education. And I think that's because a lot of our editors and readers and listeners are seeing themselves in these institutions, they're seeing their children in these institutions. They're seeing the pain that education is undergoing right now. And they feel it.

Jeff Selingo:

Elissa, how about you? I have been at an NPR. I mean, obviously higher ed has also competed with the K-12 beat on and in many newsrooms as well. What are you seeing there at NPR?

Elissa Nadworny:

Well, absolutely what Nick said. I mean, the appetite for education stories in general has been huge this year and then higher ed too. And I'm really glad you brought up the, we're seeing ourselves, there a sense of nostalgia in some of this reporting of like, I experienced the so differently than students this year are experiencing it. And so there's that element to the interest. I also think, especially in the Fall, nothing was really opening except for colleges. It was this big thing that everyone was paying attention to in that sense of like, it's an experiment in a sense, like what's going to happen and what does it mean for our community? So I think that hooked people in, in the Fall and that's then led around the academic year.

Elissa Nadworny:

One thing I'm curious about is if the interest in higher ed from the pandemic is going to spread into interest in policy, as we see Biden's policy about what he's going to do with free college or even student loans, like, is that connected to the fact that we've been paying attention to colleges for the last year. And so I'm really curious to see where that goes this summer.

Jeff Selingo:

So Karin, how about from your perch, because you obviously have worked for publications that have only covered higher ed for quite some time. How would you describe this in terms of what you've seen over your career?

Karin Fischer:

I mean, for me, the evolution of this story has been interesting because I was on it very early on. I cover international education and this was for a time only an international story. And so for probably six weeks, I was the only reporter at the Chronicle of higher education covering the pandemic. And I was initially only covering it as an international story. What's happening to students and professors who were stuck overseas. What's going to go on with study abroad, things like that. And then as the pandemic became more of a real thing here for us in the U.S. I still was the primary reporter. So that's been really interesting.

Karin Fischer:

For international education, I think, as a niche within higher ed, it's like the tourism, you don't know what you've got till it's gone and certainly, there's been this enormous drop in international [inaudible 00:08:04]. It was pretty much impossible for most international students who are coming to the U.S. or new students to get here this year, visas dropped by nearly three quarters. And so I think, even within higher education that became suddenly a much bigger thing of focus and attention because, Oh, gosh, here are these students that bring so much diversity to our campuses and also pay a lot to be here and what happens if they can't make it. And that quite honestly, even as we start talking about college reopenings, it's still an open question for this Fall.

Jeff Selingo:

So COVID understatement of the year has obviously dominated all of the reporting at this year. And so I'd love to dig a bit deeper onto this question. Elissa, let's start with you. You've traveled to more than 20 campuses across nearly a dozen this year to see how college actually looks in the time of COVID. And it's been a fascinating road trip to follow. Tell us about that road trip, particularly what have you seen and learned that might stick in higher ed from this year long after the pandemic subsides?

Elissa Nadworny:

Well, I think the biggest thing that's going to stick is the paying attention to the student needs. I mean, almost every campus I went to wanted to show me their expanded food pantry, their emergency crayons, their laptop loaner programs. So I think some of those supports for students that maybe were a very small program before are now big. And I was seeing that on private, small campuses, community colleges, state universities. So I think across the board, that's something that's going to stick, of course, this hybrid online learning. I think we're going to see course catalogs reflect that going forward, even when folks are vaccinated and we're back in person, I think the course catalog is going to reflect that there's going to be a lot more online options.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. And so Karin, you mentioned this earlier, missing from a lot of campuses this past year were of course the thousands of international students who can travel to the U.S. And it's interesting, despite fears to the contrary applications from international students were actually up if I understand right, for this coming Fall. So what's the state of applications. Where were they up? Will students actually be able to get to the U.S. in the Fall, and which institutions might be most at risk generally if students can't get here?

Karin Fischer:

So, yeah. You're right, Jeff. Overall applications for about 10% through the college app. I think, though that,` that is not even, and I think recently the biggest, and by far the biggest center of students is China. It was down nearly 20% in applications. And there's a lot of reasons for that. Some of which really relate to the pandemic and some of which predated, including just can they get here. But also questions about the geopolitical tensions between China and the U.S. and the ways in which they are directly affecting students and student visas and policies that have been focused on them. And some real questions a bit with at the Biden administration will continue that. I think that when I talk with colleges that 10% number in terms of the increase, I don't think it's really being felt evenly.

Karin Fischer:

And so I think that there are some types of institutions that have really benefited and are seeing. And I think this is true in American applications as well, that are seeing much greater numbers and have in some ways that reflects also the weaving of colleges going test optional. And in ways the pandemic, I think it certainly it's created unique pressures, but it just highlights and underscores and just exacerbate some of those challenges, like the inequities and who goes where. And so, one of the things I'm really wondering about the future for international enrollments is going to exacerbate the haves and have nots so that certain, very brand name institutions do a lot better. And other smaller colleges that were relying on enrolling a handful of students from abroad to help balance their budgets might not be able to rely on that in the future.

Karin Fischer:

And then I would also say, I mean, more than any other student group right now, what applications don't mean that much, because can the students get here? Right now, only about half of consulates, American consulates are open, there's enormous visa processing backlogs. And he just think about even students, how colleges are lobbying the state department to push students up in the line and to make them a priority for visas. But there'll be two groups of essentially students trying to come through this very narrow pipeline. On top of that, there are still a number of countries that cannot come here directly to the U.S. from including China, which again, a third of students from abroad at U.S. colleges, they're from China.

Karin Fischer:

And then vaccines, and I know we'll probably talk a bit about that later, but it's really unclear how vaccine policy is going to play out in general and particularly how it's going to affect international students. Most of whom either don't come from countries where they just don't even have access to vaccines period, or they certainly don't have access to American approved vaccines. And so how are colleges going to deal with these big unknowns, the viz, the visas and the vaccines. So-

Jeff Selingo:

So in other words, the applications don't necessarily signal something, in that way. So now Nick, so listen, Karin talked about the student side of the pandemic, which of course you've already also reported on, and you've also written about the institutional side. So, thinking about what you were writing about last summer, how do you think this past year for colleges and universities overall went? In terms of how they dealt with the pandemic. As you think about all those stories you wrote a year ago, and now as you look back and if I'm not mistaken, your own kids are in college, right?

Nick Anderson:

Yeah.

Jeff Selingo:

How do you think colleges did overall? What's the state of this past academic year?

Nick Anderson:

Well, I think they're probably going to give themselves a huge sigh of relief when they finish commencement season. And then they will immediately turn to their budget bottom lines and say, because they have muddled through, they really have, in some ways they have muddled through, with extraordinary effort from the faculty and the staff to help students through mental health, which has become a huge concern. And if anybody on college campuses thought mental health was a frill, they don't think that now. It's also worth noting that institutions really ramped up their COVID testing in record time.

Nick Anderson:

I mean, when of colleges ever turned on a diamond, started operating twice weekly testing for tens of thousands of students. It's amazing that they were able to do that. Colleges in essence are very bureaucratic institutions in some ways, and yet they were pretty nimble in being able to solve problems and get the students enrolled and in their own, self-interests get the tuition dollars coming in. So, will they give themselves a high grade? I don't know. I think they will at least say, well, we survived that. And they will probably then take a bunch of lessons from this and try to reform a little bit, both for pedagogical reasons and for fiscal reasons.

Nick Anderson:

One thing sticks in my mind about the changes of the pandemic that I think is worth noting is that in certain situations, Zoom was better. Zoom is better. I've heard over and over again for faculty office hours. The question of meeting your professor and trekking over to their office and having a conversation. Well, it just works better. I think for students to do that by Zoom, at least in a lot of cases. Zoom is also better for huge lectures in some cases where you have multiple student assistants, graduate, teachers, or even multiple professors who are monitoring the chat string and answering questions in live sequence, as they pop up, you can do that a lot better through Zoom than you can in a jam packed lecture hall where people are snoozing in the back. So I think colleges are going to find some positives out of this. They're going to have quite a few fiscal pressures. And I think that is still to be determined based on how the enrollment season shakes out in the next several weeks.

Jeff Selingo:

Well, speaking of enrollment season, as you said, many are wrapping it up right at this time of year or attempting to do so, as I suspect, that finalizing the class will actually be a bit of a moving target for many colleges throughout the summer. But what we think of the traditional admissions cycle, this very unusual admissions year is really coming to a close. And there's been not only a bunch of upheaval in institutional finances, but family finances as well. And Elissa, I know you've been looking at financial aid appeals and we know aid as a tool to lower students. And get them to enroll. But given institutional finances, colleges don't want to give way too much this year. So what's going on with financial aid, you have families on one side wanting more, and you have schools on the other side, more than ever before wanting to give less.

Elissa Nadworny:

Well, I think big picture what's going to happen is we're going to see fewer low-income students enrolling in college. I mean, this is the prediction, and this is what I've talked to folks about that there just, isn't going to be enough money to make up a lot of those financial aid gaps as there may have been previously. That said, the financial aid offices I have talked to, know that probably appeals are going to be a big part of this process, and they've been bracing for that and they budgeted for that. One of the things I've been really curious is about this appeals process. It's always been around it ended down by Congress actually it's called professional judgment, and it's basically in admissions, you can come back to the college and say, my situation has changed, I need more money. And the college gives you some money.

Elissa Nadworny:

And the ed department gave guidance this year about it. I think it's top of mind for a lot of families, maybe for the first time who didn't know that this was possible because COVID happened and families are feeling it. But for me, the big question is we don't have any data on this process. We don't know how often it's successful. We don't know who gets it and how much they get. We don't know if there's any bias in that process. So in a year where this is expected to happen a lot, and I've heard anecdotally from families and financial aid offices, that it is happening, people are being awarded more money in this process. It's a black box. So that's something that I'm really interested in and see how this plays out. And if it makes the difference for students, we'll see what that looks like.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. I mean, I've always wondered about professional judgment. Is it like, are they really giving enough to really make a difference? Or is it just sometimes it seems like it's a couple 100 bucks, which I know for some people, I actually might make a difference, but it's not a huge amount of money we're talking about here.

Elissa Nadworny:

You know what's interesting though, is the psychological message. Maybe it actually isn't that helpful, but I have heard from a lot of families who are like, yes, we decided to go there because they gave us a little something. We're still taking out loans to make it work because we don't have enough, but it just made us feel good. So I'm curious about that.

Jeff Selingo:

And we'll be right back with more from our Reporters' Roundtable after this short break.

Michael Horn:

Support for this podcast is provided by the bill and Melinda Gates foundation, which is committed to preserving and expanding educational opportunity for today's students. Now more than ever learn more at postsecondary.gatesfoundation.org. It's a turbulent time in higher ed. How has your university responding to the changes? Too many colleges and universities are marketing themselves in ways that don't matter.

Michael Horn:

They're too focused on promoting features and benefits. That game is over. Learn more about growing enrollment, engagement, loyalty, and advocacy through shared values and emotional connection. Visit bvk.com today to schedule a complimentary presentation of the big brand theory to learn how values-based marketing will help your university win. And we're back on future you with the Reporters Roundtable. So quickly following up on that, Nick, you were earlier talking about how institutional finances have obviously been battered by the pandemic going to be a major point of focus for administrators on campus. Federal stimulus might paper over some of those issues, but we've talked a lot on this show about whether colleges might close or merge or declare higher eds form of bankruptcy, financial exigency. What's the outlook from your perspective after the pandemic?

Nick Anderson:

For the last 10 years or so, I've been hearing people say at colleges are going to close. Colleges are going to close and not many of them do, some do, you hear of a liberal arts college once in a while, or some regional college, usually a private college, obviously public colleges don't close that often. So I don't believe that we're about to see a mass extinction event of colleges. I just don't believe it. If you look at the enrollment numbers, the enrollment problems from the pandemic were really concentrated in community colleges. They're not going anywhere. Community colleges are here to stay and the enrollment appeared to be fairly solid in the public sector otherwise, and in the private sector and not that there weren't pressure points, but I would say that the financial risk here for colleges really is how they can manage change. Change on campus, change in the model of teaching, changing in the patterns of consumption of education, will people want to come back to school the way they did before?

Nick Anderson:

I assume there's going to be a surge of interest in coming back in the Fall, and that there's going to be a temporary bump in people wanting to come back and be on campus and revel in the fact that they have some normalcy that they've captured. The big story is going to be how normal can normal be? But long-term managing change and managing the institutional imperative to make sure your market base is solid and make sure that the 18, 17, 16, 15 year olds out there that they're in your pipeline and you're finding them and that they can pay. Those are the big questions. And I think it's a lot more complicated than like, Oh, our 50 college is going to close next year.

Michael Horn:

Yeah. So that resonates, I guess the question for my follow up on that is will we see a rebound in the community college enrollments from your perspective, or if not, do you think that there'll be more consolidation because while there's not closure of community colleges, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, have all looked at pretty sweeping consolidations of their community college system?

Nick Anderson:

Yeah. So community colleges where everybody's keeping an eye on them, thinking that because of the economic downturn, that community college enrollment would surge and it didn't, they went down because of the pandemic and various problems with the social and health issues. But the counter to that is that when the economy does better community colleges don't get as many new students. And so now that we're seeing the economy pick up, I'm not sure the community colleges are going to have a rebound. The wild card is Congress and the Biden administration. And you're seeing right now enormous discussion in Washington about community colleges, specifically about programs to give last dollar scholarships to ensure that people can go to community college, tuition free, which is an experiment that's been tried in many States with some success.

Nick Anderson:

And you're seeing initiatives to expand the Pell Grants and initiatives to try to bolster community college infrastructure. So community colleges are really at the center of Washington policy right now. We'll see if that moves the needle on enrollment.

Michael Horn:

Yeah. That'd be fascinating. So let's talk about the international side of this then Karin, because before the pandemic, it was a bright spot for many institutional finances, particularly before the Trump administration, I should also had, but many American parents thought it was good news that international students might not be able to get to the U.S. because they thought it would open up more spots for their kids. But you recently reported on a study that showed that international students actually don't in fact crowd out American students. Can you dig a little bit more deeply into what you found.

Karin Fischer:

Sure. This study looked at about the last three decades of international enrollments at the undergraduate level and found no displacement. And in fact, it found that the presence of international students seemed to be correlated with more American students studying in the STEM fields. And of course, there's a lot of particular concern about displacement there given talent pipeline being at what it is. That's the most persistent myth that I've heard since I have been writing about international students. And it is true, a very small handful of institutions that are typically fairly selective publics, but it's just not broadly, if we're fairly selective publics in States with growing populations. So it's just not true elsewhere. I mean, there are a lot of places in which international students we're taking places with the demographic cliff being what it is, taking places we're going to go unfilled otherwise.

Karin Fischer:

And in some cases, institutions expanded and turned to international students. And they have been, as you pointed out Michael, they were very critical lifeline. I mean, another study economists at the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia looked at what happened to the relationship between state budgets and state funding for higher education, specifically for flagship institutions and international students. And they basically made up the budgetary difference coming out of the last recession for a lot of institutions. And so, because they may be the biggest question mark, along with those low income students who typically go to community colleges, I think that could be an additional challenge as we were talking about the finances of institutions. They're not going to, I think be able to necessarily count on these students coming in and making up the budgetary shortfalls that we might be experiencing in higher ed.

Michael Horn:

So, let's focus on then one more giant question around all this, which is, you said visas before and vaccinations, let's dive into vaccinations part of this. Elissa, I'd love to start with you because you reported recently in the rising number of college campuses requiring vaccinations for enrollment this Fall. What did you find and will this turn into another divide, like open, closed campuses last year or mask mandates, or what else might we find?

Elissa Nadworny:

Well, I guess we should start with the news from California, which is that the UC and the CSU system are planning to require vaccines with full FDA approval. So there is an asterix here. I think the Chronicle has reported more than 50 colleges have made requirements for Fall. I actually don't think that it's going to be as big of a divide as some of the open mask things. And the reason is because vaccines aren't new. Colleges have long required vaccines for residential students. I found we've had legal challenges to these mandates. I found a case that nearly a century ago, where a student in California sued the University of California for recording a smallpox vaccine, judge upheld. So there is that legacy. And also vaccines represent the promise of more normalicy.

Elissa Nadworny:

I love what Nick said that the story in the Fall is going to be like, how normal can we be? And I think vaccines are a big piece of that for residential college campuses. And so that I think is going outweigh some of these may be more political leanings. The other thing is that we have had some surveys to indicate that prospective students and families are supportive of these vaccine mandates. And again, I think that's because it's connected to the in-person experience. Yeah, Nick.

Nick Anderson:

I would just like to add on the question of political divides, if you just look right now at the public university systems that are adopting vaccine mandates, they're in California. We just had one today in Maryland, the university system of Maryland, UMass Amherst, Rutgers, is in New Jersey. There's a pattern there that's blue, there's a bunch of blue universities that are coming out in the public sector. And I have not seen a red state flagship looking for the red state flagships, looking for the, how about UT Austin? How about the University of Alabama? How about the University of Florida? Show me a red state flagship that adopts a vaccine mandate. And then I will say, Oh, well maybe it's not such a divide, but until then I see a divide.

Karin Fischer:

Well, in fact, I would point out that you have the precise opposite. UT Austin couldn't put a mandate if they wanted to because they their governor's put an executive order in and you have some other States where the legislatures are moving to basically prohibit colleges from enacting mandates.

Elissa Nadworny:

I wonder how much of it is the emergency youth authorization, because that's true that, that is new. We don't have a legacy of that. And so actually the legal precedent doesn't apply to that. So I wonder if that's a hold back for a lot of these colleges.

Nick Anderson:

Could be, but I would also just add that, this is an unfolding situation-

Elissa Nadworny:

Absolutely.

Nick Anderson:

In days, things can change. In a couple of weeks, things can change. So, I think it's something to keep an eye on. I'm not going to declare that there's a great red blue divide right now, but there's the potential for one.

Michael Horn:

No. It's definitely unfolded in the early innings, we shall say along those lines. Karin, I'd love you to add the international angle on this because there's a huge set of questions around international students, their access to vaccines, American approved vaccines, how campuses might handle some of those questions. Could you dimensionalize some of that conversation for us?

Karin Fischer:

Yeah. I mean, as I said, the availability of vaccines around the world is just incredibly variable. You have a number of countries that have vaccinated, single digit percentages of their populations. And we were talking about the divides within the American population will that persist within in the international student population to where European students, for example, who do have access to American approved vaccines are much more easily able to come here whereas if you are in South America, Africa, you're not getting vaccinated. What's going to be the policy and it gets really into weird sticky things. If you come on a visa, you can't come very far and ahead. So are you going to have to be quarantining for the first couple of weeks, if you're an international student, whereas your dear classmates can go to class, and how is your institution going to be planning for that?

Karin Fischer:

And of course, then there's the really big variable of places like China have their own vaccines. They're not American vaccines there. So are you going to basically gambled that, you're going to make those students get vaccinated twice. And so, there's a lot of questions. And as Nick said, I think we are very early on, and I think colleges will be thinking more through that policy. But right now it's just one more variable that adds to the uncertainty about the enrollment picture for next year.

Nick Anderson:

I'm going to bet you a nickel that the question of international students and whether they've been vaccinated or not is going to be trumped by the question of, can you pay tuition? Therefore, the colleges that have admitted these students and want to enroll them, we'll make extra efforts to get them to the United States a little early, find a way to get them the vaccine if they don't have it and roll out the vaccine red carpet for them so that everything feels and is perceived to be as smooth as possible to get them here to America.

Michael Horn:

Yeah. It's going to be a fascinating dynamic. And on that note, I would just want to, as we start to wrap up, we had an audience question. We actually had many audience questions for you. I'm just going to pull out one, because I think it's interesting about the state of the beat, if you will. And it's from Andy Palumbo, the AVP for enrollment management and Dean of admissions and financial aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. And Andy said that, I'm sure higher ed reporting like everything else has been more challenging during the pandemic, but have there been any positives has finding new voices in our institutions been easier? What adaptations to your own work might remain in a post COVID world? Elissa, you obviously went out to campuses, so maybe you kick us off, but then love you each to have a quick reflection on that.

Elissa Nadworny:

Well, I guess there's a bit of irony in my answer because of what I was thinking when I heard that was that one of the things it's just allowed me to connect more with students on a more constant basis, like on cell phone and text messaging and Twitter DM, and this check-in system that I didn't really have before, where I have a whole group of students from lots of different institutions that I'm just, okay, this happened, what's your reaction to that? Or like in the summer with the international, the ice when international students come, it was just like, Oh, like checking in. And that was a moving target for three weeks of reporting. And it was just a constant communication. So that is a totally different way of reporting for me. That's directly or resolve the pandemic.

Michael Horn:

Nick, what about you?

Nick Anderson:

I think of Union County College in New Jersey, community college, where I went, I think of the University of Wisconsin and Madison, where I went to check out their preparations before Thanksgiving to make sure that everybody was traveling safely. I think of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I fantastic visit right before their school year started. And their school year crashed to say it was a quick start and end. And in fairness to Chapel Hill, their school year got back up and rolling, but I think it's been fantastic for the beat because it's forced us to get out there by getting out there literally in person when possible to those places or getting out there by working the email, working the Zoom, work on the phone, and talking to as many people as possible to say, "Hey, there's a crisis what's going on? How are you dealing with it?" It's a perfect excuse to talk to people.

Michael Horn:

Karin, what about you?

Karin Fischer:

I mean, I would circle back for one to a place where we started, which is just it's made what we do. It's demystified it in a way, and it's just made it so much more relatable. Everybody went to college themselves or have children. And these are very immediate questions. And so like Elissa, I hear from the parents and the students themselves more and more directly than I ever did before and through the is so many different channels. Personally, I used to be on the road a couple of weeks every month, both within the U.S. and traveling internationally. And I thought that was going to really be a detriment for my reporting. And there's some weird, strange immediacy about Zoom reporting that I thought I would hate.

Karin Fischer:

But I mean, I reported a story where I spent hours and hours on Zoom with students in China and international students here who were effectively quarantining on their own campuses. And strangely, we got to know each other and built a lot of that rapport that I usually associate with spending several days on the road with somebody. And so I do wonder what my own reporting will look like when I have both the option to travel again, but also I think Zoom's going to stay with us both educationally, but also probably as a reporting tool.

Michael Horn:

So that's leads perfectly into the last question I have for you all, which I guess is a bit of a lightning round question. But as we wrap up, we've all heard about a bunch of stories that you all are going to be tracking over the coming weeks months and into the Fall to see how normal is normal and so forth. But what's the story that we should all be talking about right now that we're not, that's maybe below the radar, but that you're interested in and that you think we ought to be paying attention to? Karin, let's start with you on this one and then we'll go around the group.

Karin Fischer:

Well, I'm actually heartened we have been talking about it a little bit today, which is just the ways in which the pandemic is going to exacerbate the inequities that already exist in higher education. And I think that is true. Both domestically here in the U.S. it's also true internationally it's true for institutions. And so, I'm interested to see both what the impact is and if the pandemic shines a light more on that. So we start paying more attention and listeners start paying more attention to it, too.

Michael Horn:

Elissa, what do you have on your list?

Elissa Nadworny:

Well, I am thinking about those half a million students that didn't go to college this year and what happened to them? I mean, the class of 2020-

Michael Horn:

Yeah. The missing class.

Elissa Nadworny:

Where'd they go? Will they ever go back to college? It's wild. I mean, I wish I could do a story on it once a week.

Michael Horn:

Yeah. No, that's a good one. Nick, last word on what you're following.

Nick Anderson:

Two things, the racial reckoning on college campuses is intense and enormous and needs to be delved into in multiple ways. And I also am completely fascinated by how colleges and the actual classroom experience is going to change in a semi-permanent way nothing's ever permanent, but in a semi-permanent way, what's the pandemic effect in a positive way, on the way students learn?

Jeff Selingo:

Thanks all for a terrific conversation today and for making time for us as well. Michael and I are going to pass on our usual commentary segment this week, because we'll be back with the final episode of the season next time, where we're going to have plenty of time to chat. So until then, thank you for listening to Future U, please take care and please get those shots. So we all can find some normalcy in our lives.

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