Postsecondary education in states is a complicated ecosystem that connects oversight of adult basic education, workforce training programs, veterans’ programs, community colleges, universities, and student support structures. In order to respond effectively and efficiently to the COVID 19 pandemic, it is necessary to align these systems.
Although the temporary closure of colleges and universities was necessary to slow the spread of the pandemic, the short-term impacts will be difficult, especially for communities that depend on their institutions for education, research, social services, and community enrichment. The unexpected closure of or move to whole-scale online learning for many institutions will have negative impacts on the most vulnerable students who are at risk of homelessness, food insecurity, and lack of access to the resources needed to remain in postsecondary programs. The least resourced institutions, many of which are rural or minority-serving, are already struggling under the weight of the ongoing health crisis. Governors should consider their colleges and universities as not only education locations, but as major employers and generators of economic activity and other community benefits, especially in rural areas. These institutions provide more than just education; they are often a backbone in communities through healthcare, housing, childcare, and food services for thousands of families.
However, colleges and universities can be part of the longer-term recovery effort. They contribute to broader state economic and community development objectives not only through education, but also through research, entrepreneurship, extension, and service to local, state, and regional goals. Mobilizing postsecondary resources in alignment with community assets and needs should be part of the longer-term effort toward economic and social recovery.
All NGA coronavirus memos can be found here, or visit Coronavirus: What You Need To Know for current information on actions States/Territories are taking to address the COVID-19 pandemic; as well as advocacy, policy, and guidance documents for protecting public health and the economy.