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This summer has not been the typical break that most leaders in higher education are accustomed to. The uncertainty of COVID-19 has led to university leaders using the summer to determine the best way forward for their institutions, while also considering how to address questions regarding overall student wellbeing. Further, along with considerations for physical health, research is making it clear that the mental health of students must also be considered.
When making decisions about returning to campus, continuing remote learning or taking a hybrid approach, college and university leaders need to look beyond just the educational aspect of the collegiate experience to a more comprehensive approach. And, they must take into consideration that students and parents are looking at their options for the fall semester and asking questions, too. As such, colleges and universities need to be prepared to answer questions regarding concerns about finances, academics and health.
The global economic impact of COVID-19 is well documented. In America, over 38 million Americans have filed for unemployment. This has led to concern about the cost of tuition and fees for many students, especially in the event that remote learning continues. The financial questions that higher education must be prepared to answer before the fall include:
- Will student fees stay the same if classes remain online or if the semester ends early?
- Will financial aid deadlines be extended?
- Will room/board and student fees be refunded if classes begin on campus but then shift to online?
- Will work study opportunities be available to students experiencing unexpected financial hardships?
Although returning college students are now familiar with online formats after the transition to remote learning in the spring, the results were disruptive, to say the least. And by some estimates, more than a quarter of students are questioning a return to their current colleges or universities in the fall due to uncertainty of how their schools plan to reopen. In the event that classes and student services must return online, universities must ensure that communication is clear, expectations are set and professors are prepared. The academic questions that higher education must be prepared to answer before the fall include:
- Will classes be in person, remote or hybrid? And if classes are in person, what will be the impact of social distancing requirements?
- Will students be able to drop courses in the event of another transition to remote learning in the fall?
- Will grading remain the same for remote learning and hybrid scenarios, or will pass/fail options be offered?
- What kind of accommodations will be made for students with limited access to the internet?
With the possibility of returning to in-person classes in the fall, students and parents remain concerned about the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus. If students are required to live on campus, this will mean close quarters, which could increase the chances of spreading the virus if a student gets sick. The health questions that higher education must be prepared to answer before the fall include:
- How will the physical and mental health of students be supported?
- What social distancing and advanced cleaning measures will be taken on campus?
- What is the plan if a student gets sick with COVID-19 or another communicable disease in the residence hall?
- How will campus accommodate high risk or immunocompromised students?
Telehealth’s Role in Campus Success
When it comes to addressing health concerns related to COVID-19, telehealth can be a vital part of the campus healthcare equation that gives peace of mind to students and parents. As nationally-known student affairs expert and former Duke University VP of Student Affairs Larry Moneta said in TimelyMD’s guide to Optimizing Higher Ed Resources During COVID-19 and Beyond to Support Students, “Telehealth provides essential care, both for mental and physical health, is cost effective, of extremely high quality, portable, and increasingly recognized as essential to meeting students’ needs.”
For campuses that are able to make appropriate and safe accommodations to bring students back to campus in the fall, telehealth services like TimelyMD have many benefits for students and for the campuses, including:
- Technology for remote assessment and monitoring of students who are managing symptoms related to COVID-19.
- Immediate mental health support for students dealing with the impact of COVID-19, social distancing stressors on campus life and other societal stressors.
- Wellness coaching to develop healthy lifestyle behaviors that can help improve overall campus health.
- Expand on-campus healthcare capacity with on-demand and after-hours support that eases the burden on campus medical and mental health providers, while providing continuity of care.
However, not all campuses will be able to return to campus in the fall, or a hybrid model for on-campus and remote learning may be adopted in some cases. The possibility also remains that the fall semester could mirror the spring, and COVID-19 could close campuses again. Telehealth can still benefit campuses in any of these scenarios with:
- On-demand health and wellness support that engages students anytime, anywhere.
- Continuity of care for when students are able to return to campus.
- Mental health support for students dealing with isolation, disruption of routine and other stressors due to quarantine, separation from campus community and other issues.
- Reach, monitor and provide support for students in COVID-19 hotspots who are unable to return to campus.
The CDC recommends providing student support services virtually, as often as possible. Similarly, the ACHA recommends that higher education continue to utilize telemedicine visits and provide students with options for telemedicine or telephone consults when appropriate. Telehealth for medical and mental health support has already become an integral part of providing safe, effective and efficient care for many campuses across the country. This extension of on-campus healthcare services ensures student services are uninterrupted during times of need. TimelyMD enables higher education to optimize campus healthcare and enhance services as a support for what on-campus providers can offer.
Learn more about how TimelyMD meets students where they are.