In this week’s roundup:  

President Biden’s first week in office has been full of fresh appointees and renewed promise of a mutually beneficial relationship with higher ed, permanent changes brought on by the pandemic are beginning to make themselves known and students grapple with the fall semester as they get started with the spring semester. 

With the end of January near, we approach the one-year mark for life in COVID-19 times. Reflection and looking towards the light at the end of the tunnel will likely be hot topics as we move towards March.

January 21-27

  • President Biden signed an executive order on Thursday directing the Department of Education to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to provide evidence-based guidance for higher education institutions on reopening safely. The plan also calls colleges “natural partners” with the federal government in vaccine distribution. 
  • In the meantime, colleges and universities are using various COVID-19 testing protocols and methods in the spring semester. 
  • The Department of Education announced Biden-Harris appointees. 
  • President Biden’s promises to make college free (at least at public and minority-serving institutions) may threaten some private institutions
  • Lawmakers in at least eight states are pushing legislation this year that would make federal or state financial aid applications a high school graduation requirement. 
  • As colleges have adjusted their academic calendars in response to the pandemic, some changes may be positive and lasting. 
  • The overall enrollment picture hasn’t looked great, but there is at least one area of growth at many schools: short-term programs that help students gain new skills for the workforce quickly. 
  • A new National Bureau of Economic Research report investigates the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on faculty parents. Women with children have lost, on average, an hour of research time per day on top of what childless scholars have lost. 
  • Keeping it in the family: California’s Holy Names University will offer parents two free classes while their child is enrolled at the university. 
  • College presidents are people too, and they’ve been dealing with multiple crises in the past year; support is more important than ever from all across campus and the surrounding community. 
  • A survey by New America and Third Way shows that student concerns related to the pandemic, such as the ability to remain motivated and finding a job post-graduation, have mostly worsened since the beginning of the fall semester.  
  • A study of 118 rural public colleges shows that more investment in these institutions is necessary to combat higher local unemployment numbers.  


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