Higher Education in New England – Planning a Post-COVID-19 Recovery
by Ted Landsmark
As part of the GRI Whitepaper Series, GRI has released 10 Special Investigation Reports supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These reports bring together analysis and policy recommendations in cross-cutting critical areas including municipal and state budgets, housing, food, healthcare, K-12 education, childcare, higher education, small business, energy, and fisheries. Each sector-specific report was authored by subject matter experts of these areas from GRI’s Northeastern Faculty Affiliates and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, providing an in-depth, accessible review of the challenges, opportunities and actionable policy considerations in each area facing the COVID-19 crisis.
The New England Commission on Higher Education accredits over 200 public and private colleges and universities across the six states within the region, giving New England a larger per capita percentage of higher education institutions than any other region in the United States. COVID-19 has had enormous negative impacts on interconnected areas of education, employment, housing, social services, supply chains, food distribution, internet access needs, tourism, transportation, and health care. This impact creates an opportunity to envision a transformative new equilibrium that links higher education, community economic recovery, and racial justice in New England’s college communities.1 This paper focuses on developing collaborative, inter-dependent recovery strategies that reach the most affected people, institutions, communities, and affiliated industries.
The immediate health effects of CORONAVIRUS-19 will not likely be resolved during the 2020-21 academic year. New England college enrollments will likely decline, with negative effects on local economies. Because colleges and universities have intermittent revenue streams shaped by their enrollment cycles, longer-term economic, tax, housing, and educational impacts of the virus could have slow-recovering effects for multiple years, until 2025 or beyond.2 This report acknowledges that many New England college communities have been sites of racial injustice demonstrations in 2020, and that higher education is a resource for addressing racial disparities in diverse populations across the region.