By: John Shumway
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – With thousands of dollars at stake and a world of COVID unknowns, parents and students are staring into the fall college semester wondering what to do.
A college education means more than just what comes from the classes and New Directions Counseling’s David Morris says he’s hearing about it from his families, “It’s a big struggle. I think what people are struggling with most is the uncertainty. People are saying should I go?”
The critical dilemma is that many colleges and universities are planning to go ahead with in-person classes with the asterisk being if COVID numbers spike everything could go online.
From the parent’s perspective, a lot of money spent so their student can sit in their dorm and go to classes online.
Meanwhile, much of the rest of the university will be off-limits or restricted.
Morris says, “Being around campus this is a time when 18 to 23-year-olds, you are integrating your identity with others, with intellectual development with your own personal set of beliefs and values. You are sort of bouncing that sort of stuff off each other and that’s where you get a set belief system from that college experience. Doing it online you are not going to get those same interactions.”
So parents and students, who had a taste of the online world at the end of the COVID-shortened spring semester, are wondering if it’s worth the investment. “I think you have to balance out are you getting the full college experience, are you just getting the academics?”
There are not a lot of alternatives except for a student to sit out a semester or a year.
“Motivation is an issue. If we were in a perfect world we would turn it off for a year and turn it back on,” Morris says, “but people have depression, anxiety, ADHD all sorts of symptoms that prevent them from rebuilding their motivations.”
College students are of an age where their desires have to be considered if even they are not paying the bill. “If they are in a position where they are really planning, really wanting to go, and they picture themselves there. Pulling that away from them is like a loss, like a grief situation. I think the uncertainty of it all, the unknown, is adding a lot of stress.”
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A former Professor at Pitt, Morris says the college-level classroom interaction and on-campus relationships are a critical part of a student’s success.
Morris understands families’ concerns when so much money is involved. He says if sitting out is a consideration you have to check with your school because they have a variety of ways they are handling the situation. Can you sit out and not lose your student status, will any money be refunded? What if you have a scholarship?
There is also the issue of ending up a year behind peers who do go this fall.
Morris says the issues are many and not easy and there is no cookie-cutter answer.
“The hardest part of all this we are used to knowing what’s going to happen next and setting our hopes on the future. And with all of this we don’t know. It’s out of our control. We’re trying to make decisions as if we know the future and we don’t know the future so they have to make decisions based on what they think is best.”