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Wait for the Punchline! -What is the value of attending college virtually rather than in-person?

—By Pablo Lopez

Picture the scene. Two employers hosting an interview for a young man dressed in a suit and tie, sporting a fresh haircut. They ask the kid “What is your educational background and what degrees have you earned?” and he replies, “Bachelors in Biological Engineering from Seton Hall.” Impressed they follow it up with “What year did you graduate?” and the young man says “Year of 2022” Shocked and embarrassed the employers quickly gather their papers saying, “That concludes the interview, thank you for showing up.” And run out of the room.

The Coronavirus affected the college experience for those in attendance. Whether they are the professors, those siting on the Board of Education or students sitting at home taking virtual notes. But the focus is on those paying to be a part of the group. Due to the Coronavirus the value of the current college experience should be examined closely and given a cheaper, more affordable value.

What is the value of attending college virtually rather than in-person? And should students wait out this current shaky period of history and put their studies aside to get their money’s worth of education and experience?

It is no secret that the cost is growing to get an education. What they sell is social mobility. The goal for everyone working for a salary. A degree cannot guarantee a high paying job. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) the year 2017/18 average tuition cost at four-year public institutions, such as community colleges like PCCC, reach as high as 20,050 dollars. This number doubles, at 43,140, for private institutions. Excessive cost for an education in the United States was not always the case. During 1985-86, room and board for both were 8,800 for public schools and 21,100 for private, when adjusted for inflation.

The job market was put to the test during quarantine lock-down in early 2020. It is a fact that 9.7 million US citizens filed for unemployment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Schools shut down and resorted to an online platform, as a last resort to keep students engaged, focused, and moving forward with their studies.

The following year, institutions such as Rowan University in Glassboro NJ, publicly announced that their cost had gone down 10%. With a price tag originally of 7,188 dollars went down to 6,469.20. You can purchase 228 cups of Starbucks coffee to keep you up late for all-nighters and deadlines. Or you can purchase 63% of an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. What a deal…

Although the school system does plan to change this structure for the Fall of 2021, not many institutions plan to open fully. There are some exceptions though. Rutgers University plans on having close to 100 percent of its students attend in-person classes for the Fall. It is a slightly odd goal to achieve granted that the world is at a crossroad. One where no one knows which path to take. To open everything and let the virus take its course or to shut down once again for the summer till everyone is vaccinated.

New York University plans to do just that too. “On April 19, 2021, NYU announced it will require all students who plan to be on NYU's New York campus and at other US sites to be vaccinated against COVID-19.” If you want access to in-person classes, you need proof that you will not help spread the virus into enter a confined area. For those who challenge such policies, there is still the option to not attend classes at all.

All this is a lot to take in. But taking a year off from the studies can be a helpful endeavor. Less stress on the mind and the wallet. If you believe that, is it not worth the effort nor the money to study via-zoom lectures and masterclass like classrooms for the price of an arm and a leg, you can choose not to attend the fall. Return to the studies when the world resumes and is back to a healthier state, medically and mentally.

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