Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
April 2021 News & Notes
We recently passed the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. There is a palpable sense that we are emerging from the worst of it, despite the repeated warnings of the need to remain vigilant in the face of virus variants that may be able to circumvent vaccines, at least to some degree. Nevertheless, a rapidly increasing percentage of the population who have been vaccinated gives rise to the hope that we will soon return to some degree of normality.
How “the new normal” will be defined is yet to be determined. It could take years before people are comfortable that a norm has been established, but certain issues can be identified that one may reasonably assume will be central to that evolution. Chief among them is remote working and learning, and their impact.
There is already considerable concern that large urban centers will suffer from employers seeking to shed the expense of brick and mortar office space and instead rely upon remote work. This would likely have the cascading effect of adversely impacting a variety of retail businesses that rely upon surrounding foot traffic. Lower tax receipts would stress local and state governments… a downward spiral.
While some of the above may occur, I’m not convinced it will be catastrophic. The work and learn from home environment of 2020 has not been without its negatives. Our broadband capacity has been tested, and certain areas, both rural and urban, have failed that test. There has also been an unhealthy erosion of the distinction between professional time and personal time, professional space and personal space, and limited in-person interaction with others has had an adverse impact on children and adults alike.
I recall the assumption that older students are better able to handle remote learning than younger students. That may be true, but it doesn’t change the fact that remote learning has taken its toll on older students as well. I’m not sure how one measures the impact of missed graduations, proms, and school plays, but there is objective data to suggest the pandemic will have a negative lifetime impact for some.
Stanley S. Litow is a Professor at Columbia and Duke Universities and a Trustee of the State University of New York. In a column published in Barron’s dated December 28, 2020, Professor Litow points out a pandemic impact that I don’t believe has received the attention it should have. The enrollment in college among June 2020 high school graduates is down almost 22% from the year before. In high poverty high schools the decline was 32.6%. Nationwide, community colleges saw an enrollment decline of 30.3% and among low income high school graduates a decline of 37.1%. It is estimated that those with a college degree earn 84% more over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. Education remains the vehicle to attain financial independence.
SAANYS continues to support SUNY’s “Big Dreams, Small Step” campaign to provide support, resources, and guidance to students graduating high school. There are fee waivers and support services designed to make the application to a SUNY school easy and inexpensive. It’s a program that could have a positive impact on a student for their life. Click the “admissions” or “apply” buttons on the SUNY website and the student or parent will have the opportunity for a live chat to have any questions answered. Please make your students aware of this opportunity so that they avoid becoming yet another grim pandemic statistic.