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R-0 is possibly the most important scientific term you will ever hear when it comes to preventing pandemic coronavirus.

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Brittany Goddard’s final semester at Howard University wasn’t the dream end she imagined in Washington, DC

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the US economy in March, she tried to pack her belongings as she had to leave her dorm room within 48 hours. At the same time, she lost her part-time job at a catering company and has yet to receive unemployment after applying for unemployment benefits in April.

She had planned to study abroad in Barcelona for the summer, but those plans were stalled due to the pandemic. And with only a few weeks left before the fall semester starts, she’s worried about how she will pay the rest of the tuition and fees – around $ 9,000 – for her financial aid. he will not pay for private schools.

“Painful. I am a student with a low income. I cannot afford the tuition, ”said Goddard, 20, who created the GoFundMe site to raise money because her mother could not afford another Parent PLUS loan, a federal student loan for Parents of dependent college students. .

“We don’t have a lot of money,” Goddard said, “My mother was a single parent raising two kids in college by herself. I am trying to get through the last stage ”.

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The colleges are struggling because of the stagnant enrollment situation

Millions of students across the country, like Goddard, face financial stress and health concerns when they decide whether to return to colleges and universities this fall. It comes at a time unpredictable for faculty and parents as policymakers in Washington face a further coronavirus outbreak, prompting schools to rush to implement their plans. for the new school year.

Just over a third of college students will return to school and take classes directly this fall if given the option, according to a new report from Student Loan Hero, given exclusively to USA TODAY. Another 16% plan to return to school but will take online courses, while about 29% plan to study online at home, the data show.

While many students plan to take advantage of online study options this fall, they don’t necessarily think their courses will cost as much as live classes. Nearly 66% of students consider distance classes to be of lower quality than live classes, and tuition costs should be reduced accordingly, data from Student Loan Hero shows.

In the fall, Fitch Ratings forecasts that a drop in annual enrollment could range from 5% to 20% for many colleges and universities as a result of the pandemic. According to Fitch Ratings, private colleges may experience more significant financial impacts than public schools, due to their greater reliance on tuition fees and student tuition collection, in which the proportion Average revenue out of total is 82%, compared with 38% for ranked public universities, according to Fitch Ratings.

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The US economy has both performed worse than ever when businesses shut down across the country and travel declined significantly.

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Experts say tuition constraints risk exacerbating the financial effects of reducing enrollment. An economic downturn can weaken the expected family donations and grants and increase the need for financial assistance.

Experts say enrollment pressures associated with declining international and freshman enrollment will affect some institutions more than others. For example, private colleges in areas that compete with challenging demographics such as those in the Northeast are likely to be among the most affected. But other schools with a wider geography would be willing to be less vulnerable.

With that, Harvard recently admitted in an email to faculty and staff that more than 20% of its students have no intention of enrolling this fall, according to a Harvard Crimson report.

Parents worry about financial support, housing costs

Across the country, Jennifer Degutis, 48, is emotionally mixed when sending her son, 19-year-old Ryan Contreras, back to second-year school at the University of California, San Diego.

Contreras, an aerospace engineer, will have online classes this term, Degutis said. But his housing options will likely happen if he doesn’t return this fall. He has been guaranteed on-campus housing for the first two years with his financial aid package, but if he returns in the spring he will be put on a wait list, she said .

He will need to stay on campus because he doesn’t have a car, and they don’t yet know if he will be paired with a roommate. The price of a single room is too expensive along with the added cost, and they will have to pay for him to use the on-campus facilities even if he is at home, she said.

When students arrive at university this month, they’ll see coronavirus test stations strategically planted throughout the campus.

Degutis, the retail manager at Five Below, a discount store, said: “It’s very nervous to know he’ll be back at school in this chaos. She lives almost three hours away by car in La Quinta, California.

The work-by-study program is also part of his financial aid package, but there aren’t many options and she isn’t sure how he will be able to work in the library or in the dining rooms due to Social measures are far away.

Just over 46% of student workers are very concerned that they won’t be able to work during the fall semester, according to Student Loan Hero. And only about a fifth of the students said their universities had reduced prices for the fall semester due to the pandemic.

Mental health is a top priority for parents

The pandemic not only creates financial headaches for parents and students, but also risks the mental health of their children, warns Degutis.

“All my son’s classes are online, so my concern as a parent is also my child’s mental health if locked up in a dorm room for 12 weeks,” Degutis said. , ”Said Degutis.

Tracy Kapiloff, 54, from Houston agrees. She’s worried about sending her daughter, Andie Kapiloff, 19, back to an out-of-state school in a few weeks.

Her daughter, a sophomore at Swarthmore College, a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, is studying political science and is also on the women’s track and field team. But track and field is currently on hiatus and she will be living alone on campus this year, Kapiloff said.

“I am concerned about her mental health. Would you like your child to live in a single room, take online classes while not meeting any friends? Plus the high cost of education. Is it worth it? ”Kapiloff, who is paying around $ 73,000 per year for tuition, fees and living expenses.

“But then you think about her being at home indefinitely and not having any interaction with her friends or teachers, so being at home seemed worse.”

The school is planning to conduct intermittent virus testing throughout the semester. If a student is positive, they will check each of them with a lower nose swab, she said.

“Strange. You send your child to college sometimes worried about a large social setting. But now there is no party or alcohol with pandemic, “said Kapiloff. My concern is her education. But her interests are social and navigating the new normal on campus. ”

More and more colleges offer students the option of online or live classes. About 45% of college students polled by Student Loan Hero say they plan to take online classes in the upcoming semester.

Some students are afraid of the on-campus classes

This fall, Garrett Weed, 22, will finish his final semester as a marketing major at Georgia State University in Atlanta. But he’s worried about how the school will stop the next flare, he said.

He plans to take four courses this semester. One is online, but he has not received instructions on the other three. He was worried that he would have to walk around campus and be in danger of getting the virus, he said.

It’s so scrary. Weed said this was not the smartest thing to do. “I’d like if all classes are online.”

According to Student Loan Hero, a student’s primary concern is avoiding coronavirus. The next two big worries on the list were not learning much due to their online classes and not having the college experience they wanted in social life and foreign languages.

Weed, who worked part-time at Bartaco, an idyllic street food restaurant, lost his job in the spring. He applied for unemployment in April and didn’t get his first check until June, he said.

Since spring, he has been detached from society with his family, who live about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. In the end, he moved out of his apartment at the end of July because he didn’t have enough rent. He also encountered challenges when trying to apply for an internship because many places don’t hire, he added.

“It’s scary to go long without an income,” said Weed, who has scholarships and student loans to pay for school. This semester is the first time he has to pay his remaining balance – $ 200 – out of pocket. He will usually get a refund to help cover part of his living expenses, he said.

“It’s frustrating not to be completely independent. “There are no jobs available for me to apply to,” Weed said. When I graduate, I want to get a decent job. An internship will help a lot, but I don’t know if I can do it now ”.

Others have not recovered their belongings since spring

Goddard, a graduate student in political science and Spanish at Howard University, who kept his belongings in storage in the spring, is expected to return to school in the fall. But now she’s completing her final months as a college student living at home in Atlanta and doesn’t know when she will be able to return to pick up her stuff.

She chose to stay with her mother because financial aid and income were not enough to cover her living expenses on campus.

She attended Howard College, a black history college and university, to have experiences surrounding a diverse group of young people. Although the school will reopen in the fall, there will be no home ceremonies, soccer matches, or double Dutching on campus this term, she said.

“I was devastated. College is the most transformative year of your life. Everything will never be the same, ”said Goddard. “I wanted to go out with a bang, but COVID ruined it.”

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