As news about COVID-19 continues to unfold, it appears that the impact on higher education in the US may be less severe than feared. For many institutions, this is good news for their students. The same refers to the faculty and staff members who are working on the front lines of their institutions to respond to the outbreak. But for other institutions, including those at the most selective and prestigious schools in the country, the picture may be much bleeker. Although it may be difficult to attend some classes, it is way easier now to work on some academic assignments, especially if you have a top-notch online essay service at hand.

Higher Education in the Period of Global Pandemics

Higher education has become a casualty of the coronavirus crisis. It’s hard to avoid the obvious conclusion — higher education, along with other sectors of the American economy, has experienced a massive hit to its fortunes. The question, of course, is where do we go from here?

One of the most obvious ways to address the crisis is for the federal government to come through with the additional aid to states and institutions that it promised earlier. Another – perhaps less obvious – path is to recognize that while the crisis has severely impacted higher education, many aspects of a college education have actually become more accessible since it began. The fact that COVID-19 has caused many colleges to suspend and delay in-person instruction could potentially be good news for students.

As we will discuss below, higher education has a long history of making its institutions more accessible. For instance, there is a widely accepted truism that before the 20th century, higher education was only available to wealthy white men. In recent decades, however, the landscape has changed in important ways. And we should not forget that there is an equally long and rich tradition of fighting for greater access to higher education.

Higher Education Has Been Making It More Accessible for a Long Time

Most people assume that the first college in America was Columbia University in New York City. While that is true, there were many other colleges established much earlier. The most important early university was at least as old as the United States itself. Harvard, founded in 1636, remains the oldest university in America.

However, two centuries later, there were hardly any colleges in the entire country. In 1841, only about 600 students were enrolled in public universities and there were none at all in private universities. In that year, the total enrollment in all of the colleges in the entire country was less than 2,000. Things did not begin to change until the middle of the 19th century. During that time, many college-like institutions became publicly funded but privately run.

By the start of the 20th century, the number of public universities in the country grew to more than 1,000. The most important new ones were created in the South and West – both regions where there was a strong tradition of higher education. As many historians have pointed out, the South and West had long been much more open to the idea of publicly supporting higher education than the rest of the country. This explains why institutions in the South and West were the first ones to create new universities.

As late as the 1960s, college enrollment levels in the South and West were still one-third lower than in the rest of the country. The rise of the great public universities is not, by any means, the only way that higher education has become more accessible in recent decades. This is true of two other important dimensions of the story – race and gender. However, it is COVID-19 that has brought higher education to a new level. And here are some of the crucial changes. 

#1 – Accessible Learning

We have become accustomed to having access to information, learning tools, and educational material when we want it and without the need to go to a formal educational institution to attend a course. This has created an environment in which information is readily available to us, but it also limits our ability for us to have access to learning when we want it. 

#2 – Virtual Learning

Virtual learning has become a part of our everyday life. And with the ability to access educational material, teachers can provide students with the necessary instruction in a way that was impossible before. Online courses, videos, and digital content can be delivered to students by teachers from any location around the world and at any time of the day.

With online learning, students have a world of information at their fingertips, and even with closed schools, they have access to an endless amount of knowledge. While this learning method isn’t new, the current coronavirus pandemic has brought this learning method to the forefront, and now, that learning method is completely accessible to all.

Online learning and the use of online content have become a mainstay of the modern classroom, and the way we learn is going to shift drastically. What this means for students and educators is that when school is not in session. Students will have access to all of the education they need at their fingertips. While this is a step forward, educators may see that while the current situation is changing quickly, the future looks bleak for online education. 

#3 – Technology

Technology is the ultimate tool for instruction. Technology is a huge part of learning online. In order for teachers to keep our students educated, it is necessary to ensure that technology is accessible for all. Schools need to have their devices updated, and online content that requires a high level of access to learning tools needs to be free of viruses and bugs. Technology also provides us with the ability to create a collaborative learning experience, where teachers and students from all over the world can learn together. This can keep students connected and involved, and encourage student interaction, engagement, and collaboration.