As college and universities adjust their delivery of instruction, student housing and other areas in the COVID-19 pandemic, their admissions departments face a unique set of challenges, too.
“We are expecting a slight decrease in enrollment over last year, due largely to the pandemic, but also due to the continued decline in high school graduates in the northeast region of the nation,” said Keystone College Director of Admissions Jennifer Sekol.
Last year, Keystone College experienced a successful enrollment year, which Sekol partially attributes to football returning to campus as a varsity sport after 71 years.
To some extent, Sekol has concerns about how the pandemic might impact future enrollment, and she expects admissions departments at virtually all other colleges feel the same way.
However, she believes Keystone may have an advantage with local students continuing to choose schools closer to home.
“Their college search habits are expected to change and we will need to adjust our recruitment strategies to meet them by providing alternatives to the traditional campus visit and other creative ways to connect with them remotely,” she said.
At this point, she said the college has already seen an increase in local applications.
“We also are expected to exceed our enrollment goal for transfer students,” Sekol said. “Many local students who were attending college out of the area have decided to transfer to schools closer to home.”
Keystone has been advertising its tuition being lowest in the region among private schools. Last year, the college reset its tuition price to $14,500, which Sekol called a more transparent and realistic “sticker price.”
She said this keeps with Keystone’s mission to make college more accessible to as many students as possible. The college also plans to provide iPads to new full-time students again this year.
Aside from lower tuition being an advantage during these difficult economic times, she believes students may find Keystone a favorable option this fall because of its spacious campus and small class sizes, which can facilitate social distancing.
“We feel it is appealing at this time for students to attend a rural campus with plenty of outdoor space,” she said.
After finishing out the 2019-20 school year remotely, Keystone College intends to resume in-person classes on Aug. 24 with no fall break. After Thanksgiving, students won’t return to campus, instead finishing out the fall semester online to reduce possible health risks with travel.
The college released its reopening plan earlier this summer.
Students, faculty and staff are expected to wear face masks in public spaces on campus and agree to complete daily checks to monitor possible COVID-19 symptoms. The college asks anyone running a fever or experiencing other symptoms to refrain from coming to work or class.
Protocols have been outlined for individuals who either get sick or encounter someone who tested positive.
Cleaning and sanitation efforts have also been ramped up across the entire campus, with everyone asked to contribute through frequent hand washing and wiping down surfaces.
In addition to reconfiguring classrooms and other spaces for decreased capacity and social distancing, the college plans to introduce a learning model that blends in-person and virtual instruction.
Students living together will be considered a “family unit” and able to gather more liberally, but they’re still encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The college has its full reopening plan available online at keystone.edu.