Higher Education in the COVID Era

September 11, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 32
Will it remain an economic growth engine?
By Barbara Mantel


As the nation has shifted from a manufacturing to a knowledge-based economy, cities and states increasingly view colleges and universities as engines of local and regional economic growth. Institutions of higher education provide jobs, purchase local goods and services, and supply skilled graduates who may settle in the region and contribute to its productivity. Major research universities license their inventions to local startups, creating high-tech jobs. And many colleges and universities work with community groups and local governments to improve surrounding neighborhoods. But the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is causing an unprecedented financial crisis among colleges and universities, emptying some towns of students, professors and staff and disrupting the institutions' ability to act as economic engines. Experts question whether that role will be permanently altered. Meanwhile, leaders of higher education are waiting to see if Congress will send them more emergency aid, while large research universities are restarting research projects suspended by the pandemic.

Photo of COVID-19 warning to students on the first day of classes at University of Southern California. (Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/Genaro Molina)
On the first day of classes at the University of Southern California last month, students are warned to take precautions against COVID-19. The pandemic has reshaped student life and put institutions of higher education and the communities surrounding them under intense financial stress. (Getty Images/Los Angeles Times/Genaro Molina)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Colleges and Universities
May 20, 2022  Free Speech on Campus
Dec. 04, 2020  Graduates' Prospects
Sep. 11, 2020  Higher Education in the COVID Era
Oct. 26, 2018  Issues in Higher Education
Nov. 20, 2015  Greek Life on Campus
May 08, 2015  Free Speech on Campus
Jan. 02, 2015  College Rankings
Jan. 18, 2013  Future of Public Universities
Feb. 04, 2011  Crime on Campus
Jan. 07, 2011  Career Colleges
Apr. 21, 2000  Community Colleges
Feb. 16, 1996  Academic Politics
Jan. 05, 1990  What Should College Students Be Taught?
Jul. 27, 1984  Colleges in the 1980s
Jan. 23, 1981  Plight of America's Black Colleges
Apr. 11, 1980  College Admissions
Sep. 06, 1974  College Recruiting
Mar. 01, 1974  Academic Tenure
Sep. 14, 1966  Graduate School Crush
Computers and the Internet
Consumer Behavior
Economic Crises
Education Policy
General Employment and Labor
Infectious Diseases
Online Education
Protest Movements
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Research in Education
Students and Social Life
Undergraduate and Graduate Education