Church Mutual Research

Part
01
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Part
01

The State of the American Church

The American church has seen a decline over the years in terms of giving and attendance. Younger generations tend to drift away from religious activities, as the percentage of those that do not have any religious affiliations increases. The Muslim population in the US is growing fast. Although there is no data that demonstrates the growth/decline of attendance, about 43% attend weekly services. In Islam, women do not have to attend prayers, but men are expected to do so.

THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN CHURCH

Attendance

  • The key factor in the decline of membership is the rise in the numbers of people that do not have any religious preference. Within the span of about 20 years, this percentage rose from 8% to 19%.
  • In 2000, 90% of the US population was affiliated to a religion. By 2018, we see this number drop to 77%, as demonstrated in the chart below.
  • Another factor in the decline of church membership is religious interests of the different generations.
  • Older people tend to have a religious affiliation. In the chart below, we can see how the number declines with every next generation, with millennials having the lowest percentage: 68%.
  • The chart below demonstrates the drop in church membership. Church membership was gradually declining from 1938 through to 1998, with a few slight dips and a few inclines. The greatest difference is noted in the past 20 years, with a drop of 20%.
  • This data is collected from those who already have religious affiliations.

The American Church: Giving

  • Religious giving has dropped by 50% since 1990. Although charitable giving has seen an increase in the recent past, the percentage given to religious entities has noted a decline.
  • One major factor is that people who give look for opportunities to impact society. Unfortunately, they are not looking to their religious structures such as churches to do so. In fact, they are looking for options within the non-profit sector, which has witnessed an explosive growth in the past few years.

AMERICAN CHURCH: ADDITIONAL INSIGHTS

Christian Church

  • Christians are now giving less than they did in the Great Depression, with the average giving at approximately 3.3% of their income. As of 2018, Christians gave 2.5% of their income to their church.
  • Christians generally still believe that tithing, giving 10% of one's income, is a religious command. About 50% of protestant church-goers say that they may tithe to a Christian ministry instead of their church.
  • 247 million people in the US say they are Christians. However, only 1.5 million people tithe. This is not even 1%.
  • The Catholic church has seen a gradual decline in attendance over the years, from 75% in 1955 to 39% in 2017. The chart below comparatively demonstrates how the protestant church has been relatively constant through the years.
  • Although data on the percentage of attendance has remained constant, the protestant percentage of the US population has seen a sharp decline from 71% in 1955 to 47% in 2017. The Catholic church has remained relatively constant with a slight decline from 24% to 22%.
  • Over the years, Christianity multiplied to Christianities, with the rise of denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormonists, among others. Other religious innovators rose, establishing new sects and redefining Christianity.
  • Although the protestant church was believed to be an integral part to the growth and establishment of the US democracy, the church and the state were still kept separate, based on the constitution.
  • Research shows that 6-in-10 Christian churches are experiencing a plateau or a decline in attendance. Conversion to Christianity is not the source of those that are growing fast. About 11% of churches have 250 or more people attending services, 57% have about 100, while 21% have less than 50 attendees.

Synagogues

  • Jewish people make up 1.9% of the population with religious affiliations.
  • Synagogue attendance is also witnessing a decline, with the congregation mostly older. This is a trend that has been noted across all religions, especially in the developed, high income world.
  • Over the past decade, the American Jewish population has lost 300,000 members. This decline is expected to continue over time.
  • Reform congregations have a median age of 54 with only 17% attending weekly services. Additionally, 80% of the children who grow up in these activities do not come back after they graduate high school.

Mosques

  • Muslims make up 0.9% of the total population with religious affiliations. 43% of US Muslims attend weekly services, 12% attend once a month, and 20% attend a few times in a year, mostly when there are special occasions and celebrations.
  • Mosque attendance is compulsory for men. 63% attend at least once or twice a month, compared to 46% of Muslim women.
  • Islam is the fastest growing religion, globally. In the US, the number of Muslims in the US grew from 2.35 million in 2007 to 3.45 million in 2017. Additionally, Islam has a much younger average age of 24, whereas the average age of non-Muslims is 32.

Research Strategy

This research was unable to find data on the increase/decrease in the weekly attendance of mosques over time. However, we came across data that demonstrated that there is an increase in the Islam population in the US. For this reason, we can conclude that this would most likely result in an increase in mosque attendance.
Part
02
of twelve
Part
02

COVID-19 Challenges: The American Church

Three major challenges facing the American Church during COVID 19 include a drastic decrease in church profits and finances due to lowered attendance, significant changes in staffing and operations, and caring for the elderly and vulnerable of the congregation.

Drop In Church Finances

  • The American church will struggle financially both in the short-term and the long-term. Although some churches have seen their attendance rise significantly, the majority of Churches are in need of restructuring their budgets in order to operate between a 50–75% capacity compared to their normal budgets.
  • Finances are now tight for churches as well as their parishioners, and so going forward churches will need to be more sensitive in both giving and in receiving tithes. Some churches may consider a "good benevolent and generosity pipeline" to help give donations to those in need.
  • Canceling worship services has negatively affected churches financially, with bottom lines lowering with the decrease in attendance, donations to churches that are normally made by attendees and members are no longer available.
  • Churches and faith organizations also depend on employees just as other businesses, with decreases in income and profit often meaning layoffs, furloughs, and salary reductions. Churches often provide a substantial source of income and are important to the economy, employing "ministers, musicians, information technology and audiovisual personnel, administrative and clerical staff, custodial and maintenance workers, and grounds keepers." Just as other small business during the pandemic, individuals are losing income, employment, benefits, and the security these provide.
  • According to predictions from Bill Wilson, the director of The Center for Healthy Churches, by the year 2025 up to one-third of U.S. churches could be out of business. Mr. Wilson references LifeWay Research that states that because of the pandemic, 5% of U.S. churches will close within the year, up five times the average church closure rate according to The Christian Century magazine. Although acknowledging these numbers are all estimates, Mr. Wilson guesses that churches will "suffer a 33% decline in giving in 2020," in large part due to the fact there was no live Easter offering.
  • According to the 2018-2019 National Congregations Study, about one third of all churches have no savings to rely upon. Some experts think the pandemic could reshape the entire U.S. "religious landscape," eliminating many small churches.

Changes In Church Staffing

  • Due to the financial strain churches are experiencing, many will move operations toward the direction of having fewer staff and employees. Many churches will skip support staff they were considering hiring, with many possibly moving towards "some form of bi-vocational (or co-vocational) model." Churches may allow staff to have flexible hours for work, alongside work from home opportunities.
  • The kinds and types of employees and staff that churches hire will also change, as the shift to using digital technology (i.e. streaming live, video conferencing, online forums, and online content)—has opened up many new possibilities for changes in services. Some churches have started offering online services, or a mix of both in person and online, with some mimicking the large commercial mega churches that have brought IT professionals into their staff who have the training and knowledge to help in their digital and online presence. This shift will ultimately lead churches to "develop a full online ministry and mission strategy" to engage churchgoers and to reach the rest of the world.
  • According to the 2018-2019 National Congregations Study, only 20% of churches stream online services and 48% are able to accept electronic donations.

Caring for Elderly and Vulnerable

  • Church ministry the more vulnerable population during the pandemic will have to be different, as churches make decisions in order to reopen that include the bests methods of ministering to and reaching out to the vulnerable as well as those in senior assisted living, senior communities, and nursing homes.
  • As older people are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus, churches must reduce their risk and chance of exposure, while also planning to provide support by phone or computer during more socially isolated times. Older congregants who are unable to receive online content through not owning a computer or cell phone, the church still sends out physical mail for every important announcement.
  • People whose health is compromised already are especially vulnerable, such as those with respiratory illness, and so churches must work to provide and "support them in holistic ways."
  • Those who have faced discrimination and stigmatization because the COVID-19 such as Asians and Asian Americans, are also vulnerable to consider during church service, as it is the duty of the church to help "reduce fearful panic and prejudice."
Part
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Part
03

Civil Unrest Challenges: The American Church

American churches are facing two major challenges as a result of the ongoing civil unrest. The first major challenge is to prove their support of justice and resultant change through effective action. The second major challenge is creating a unified message that maintains a focus on the importance of addressing social injustice rather than the importance of maintaining law and order. Full details are provided below.

Proving Support of Change Through Action

  • Churches and religious leaders in America are challenged to prove their support of change through action rather than merely voicing words.
  • In Aiken, South Carolina, churches in the city rang their bells in unison at 9:14 a.m. on Friday, June 5th. While recognized as "a start" by Aiken Chamber of Commerce Chair Julie Whitesell, she and other leaders assert it is "not enough" and action needs to be taken across the city to uproot and combat racism.
  • Rev. Jacqui Lewis of New York City’s Middle Collegiate Church says that prayer and grieving are not enough, and churches need to take actions to "make sure your congregations are not racist".
  • Clarence Hill, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, says that sending a "little statement" is insufficient and if that is all that is done "we're not doing what it takes to see change."
  • If church leaders do not appear to be taking appropriate action against injustice, they will appear to be failing to uphold one of the foundational messages of the Bible ("to care for the oppressed").

Presenting a Unified Message Against Injustice

  • President Trump is fueling one of the growing challenges between Christian American churches: presenting a unified front against injustice rather than focusing on the condemnation of the protesters.
  • On Monday, June 1, racial injustice protesters were gassed to clear the area just before President Trump walked nearby from the White House to the St. James Episcopal Church, where he proceeded to hold up a Bible upside down and backwards as part of what many are referring to as a "photo opportunity".
  • Robert Jeffress, an evangelical pastor at a Dallas megachurch, felt the action was "completely appropriate" and that it demonstrated that "God hates racism... but God also hates lawlessness."
  • Johnnie Moore, the president of the Congress of Christian Leaders, spoke in favor of the action, saying it showed Trump "defying those who aim to derail our national healing by spreading fear, hate & anarchy".
  • Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, felt differently. He said Trump was doing it for "partisan political purposes" and said that the action "did nothing to help us or heal us."
  • Earlier in the same day, Trump appeared at a Catholic national shrine to Saint Pope John Paul II. Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Catholic Church said that Trump's action "violates our religious principles" and said it would not have been condoned by Saint Pope John Paul II.


Part
04
of twelve
Part
04

COVID-19 Impact: The American Church

The American church has been affected by Covid-19 in several ways, including decreased giving, staff retention, and government mandate around reopening. A more in-depth analysis of the impact of Covid-19 on the American church is addressed below.

Decreased Giving

  • Amid Covid-19 pandemic, finances are expected to be tight. As this is the case, the American church has been affected adversely as individual church giving has decreased. A survey conducted by State of the Plate highlighted that 65% of American churches had reported a decline in giving, as congregations halted in-person services.
  • Some American churches have resulted in sourcing for remote giving following the cessation of in-person services. However, the donations and offering received through digital means are minimal. As churches adapt to the online systems of soliciting donations to keep churches running, some institutions cite that they face a challenge in appealing to the entire congregation, as some members have no access to digital platforms.

Staff Retention

  • The cessation of in-person worship in churches means that churches have shifted to conducting online services. This situation means that churches have had to forgo some services offered by support staff and retained only those who can help facilitate streamlined online services. Some churches have also cultivated a flexible work schedule, where they have allowed some of their staff members to offer guidance and other support services while working from home.
  • Moreover, the shift to live streaming services and sermons has contributed to the change in staff hired in most churches. More churches have shown a tremendous interest in hiring or training persons with knowledge and skills thl2at would be essential in helping the church maximize its online presence.

Government Mandate around Reopening

  • The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the enforcement of social distancing rules and immediate closure of non-essential industries in the US, among them, being the religious institutions. However, as the government continues to uphold the ban on in-person worship services in church, the clergy are arguing that the ban limits their religious freedoms.
  • Some Christian conservatives posit that the "Zoom Fatigue" is kicking in as the ban continues, and are contemplating on when to reopen the churches. For churches that plan to reopen, they have cited that they will maintain social distancing guidelines.
  • For instance, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the ban on in-person church services in California. However, most churches in the state plan on reopening and disregarding the ruling, citing the "human connection is essential" and that "the spiritual services of ministries are absolutely essential to the health and welfare of the people of California."

Additional Insights

The United Methodist Communications Research Team assessed the impact of Covid-19 on church activities and ways the churches are adapting to cope with the pandemic. According to the report:
  • 67% of churches are using live stream worship, whereas 14% have canceled all services. They have identified the top challenge to online worship as connecting with people who are not digitally connected.
  • 59% of the churches posit that finances are tight, and they are coping by reducing expenses.
  • An in-depth analysis of the report's findings is found in the attached slides.

Part
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Part
05

COVID-19 Closures: The American Church

American churches have adopted different ways in which they have addressed COVID-19 closures. Some have reopened in-person services, while others have settled for live-streaming/pre-recorded services to help prevent the spread of the virus, and then some have started meeting in parking lots/drive-in movie theaters. A detailed outlook of two such American churches has been provided below.

Glorious Way Church

  • Glorious Way Church is located in Houston, Texas. The church has started holding in-person services after COVID-19 closures.
  • Associate Pastor, James Buntrock, said, "We did the live stream service on a temporary basis for the (initial) 15 days that President Trump asked for. But when it turned into Holy Week, when it turned into Palm Sunday and now approaching Easter Sunday, this is a special time of year. It's never been shut down, and so we must do this."
  • Pastor Buntrock said he would feel responsible if someone was to fall ill after attending Glorious Way Church if the church did not take appropriate safety measures. However, he said that the church has taken measures to ensure the safety of the people attending the church and he is satisfied with those measures. With that said, he does believe that "corporate worship is essential to fight the virus, because it has spiritual as well as physical impacts."
  • The church has also released an official statement for COVID-19, in which it has outlined its policy and approach to the pandemic and its associated phenomena, e.g. the lockdown.
  • In the statement, the church has also laid down the steps that they are and have taken to prevent the spread of the virus through church services. They have provided details on social distancing measures and cleanliness at the church.
  • The church is conducting live stream sessions, however, they have also resumed in-person services. The church thinks that "For government to restrict churches in the manner and times they can worship clearly violates our rights to free exercise of religion and to peaceably assemble."

South Bay United Pentecostal Church

  • While many American churches have suspended in-person activities as the COVID-19 guidelines recommend, others have decided to challenge the governments and remind them that religion is an integral part of life. South Bay Pentecostal Church in California is one of them.
  • The church requested the Supreme Court to overrule restrictions imposed by the state government on attending religious services and respect the religious freedom the constitution has protected. The request, however, was turned away with a 5-4 vote.
  • The church submitted the case against Gov. Gavin Newsom and stated that he "had lost sight of the special status of religion in the constitutional structure."
  • Lawyers for the church also stated, "The Covid-19 pandemic is a national tragedy but it would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the 'fog of war' to act as an excuse for violating fundamental constitutional rights."
  • Weighing in on the religion vs. the virus debate, President Trump said, "Today, I’m identifying houses of worship — churches, synagogues and mosques — as essential places that provide essential services. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors."
  • Gov. Newsom later published additional guidance for worship places for in-person services.
  • The South Bay Pentecostal Church is currently airing live streams, however, it has also resumed in-person services on Sundays.
  • The latest guidelines for the public published by the church to attend in-person services states, "we will follow all guides set by the Center for Disease Control and Local, State Guidelines." The church's guidelines suggest that the church will follow practices ensuring hygiene, cleanliness, and social distancing rules in in-person services.
  • South Bay Pentecostal Church posted on its Facebook page about how people's giving has helped them in supporting North American missions.

Research Strategy

This research focuses on specific case studies of two different churches in the US. We have identified case studies of moderate-large-sized churches. This has been ensured through news/press articles and/or social media profiles of the churches. No specific measures could be identified for any of the churches that outline any special measures that the churches may be undertaking to ensure giving during the pandemic, however, both the churches promote giving through their website with a dedicated page/button.
Part
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Part
06

Innovations: The American Church

American churches are using alternative ways to worship and carry out their normal operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online services and online giving are some top innovations American churches have made in the wake of COVID-19.

Online Services

  • Online services, in American churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, entails reaching out to congregations through the technologically-provided platforms.
  • In this innovation, American churches are packaging bible studies, sermons, and religious lessons into videos and airing them online through social media channels.
  • According to the Moberly Monitor-Index, churches in America are using Facebook Live, broadcast internet messages, and other low-tech alternatives to connect to congregants remotely.
  • According to the Amsterdam News, Black churches in America are using YouTube, Facebook Live, Instagram, and conference calls to hold services.
  • The reason why American churches have implemented online services is to honor directives by authorities on social distancing, self-isolation, and limited gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19.
  • Online services are meant to ensure continued spiritual nourishment while ensuring that church communities do not gather in large crowds but keep the required social distance.
  • Online services were considered a top innovation in American churches because many people were receiving religious messages through online platforms rather than the normal in-person method. By the end of March 2020, 52% of church attendees were tracking religious services online.
  • Online church services can be implemented in under 24 hours. Some churches had online platforms before COVID-19, while others can use low-tech alternatives that do not require many resources to connect to congregants.

Online Giving

  • Online giving, in American churches during the COVID-19 pandemic, entails contributing to church courses and giving tithes remotely using electronic means.
  • In this innovation, collection baskets have gone electronic and church members are sending their contributions using mobile payment services such as PayPal.
  • Online giving, through mobile devices, is eliminating the handling of paper (cash or check) without spreading anything except God’s love.
  • According to the Humanitarian Disaster Institute, churches should ask their congregants to contribute online to avoid transmitting COVID-19 through the handling of paper-based money.
  • American churches have implemented online giving to respond to the suspension of in-person masses and congregations that have made in-person donations difficult. They are implementing online offerings to get finances for church operations while giving spiritual nourishment.
  • In-person cash donations are not possible because of the social distancing and isolation that has led to the suspension of church congregations. Most churches have found online giving to be the best answer in this situation.
  • Implementation of online giving in American churches require a few hours depending on the payment system. Setting up an online offertory page will take some hours while adopting one of the existing online giving options will require few minutes.
  • Siouxland churches are examples of American churches that have adopted online giving as an alternative to in-person cash donations.
  • Online giving was considered a top innovation because it is giving America churches a means to raise money for salaries and mortgages during COVID-19 when in-person donations are declining.

Research Strategy

To find information about top innovations American churches have made in the wake of COVID-19, the research team consulted reliable articles, websites, magazines, and surveys. A factor was considered a top innovation if it is being used by most churches, or it is significantly changing the regular operation of American churches. Based on the criteria and from these resources, online services and online giving are some top innovations American churches have made during the COVID-19 pandemic.



Part
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Part
07

The State of Higher Education in the US

The overall higher education enrollment in the US has been increasing since 2000. From 2010 to 2018, 4-year institutions total enrollment increased from 28% to 31%. For the last ten years, grants and scholarships have become essential in helping students attain higher education in the US. Below is an in-depth overview of the research.

Enrollment

Tuition Fees, Grants, and Scholarships

  • The cost of attending college has increased by over 25% in the last decade.
  • During the 1978 - 1979 academic year, a student had to pay a modern equivalent of $17,680 per year to be enrolled in a private college and $8,250 per year to attend a public college. However, those costs increased to $38,720 and $16,460, respectively, during the 2008 - 2009 school year.
  • Today, those costs are about $48,510 (a 25.3% increase) at private colleges and $21,370 (a 29.8% increase) at public colleges.
  • The average tuition fee at four-year public colleges in all 50 states increased by 37% from 2008 to 2018. However, the net costs, such as scholarships and grants, increased by 24%. During this period, 2008 to 2018, 41 states spent 13% less per student (about $1,220). This is because these states were adjusting to inflation.
  • Each year, the U.S. Department of Education awards about $46 billion in grants and scholarships to nation's colleges and universities. Also, private sources, such as foundations, churches, among others, award these institutions about $3.3 billion in gift aid each year.
  • Since the price to attend college has increased in the US, grants and scholarships have become important in helping students attain higher education.

Community Colleges

Alumni Giving

  • According to a survey conducted by Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) in 2018, alumni contributions to US colleges and universities reached $12.15 billion, a 6.9% increase from the previous year. This contribution represented 26% of all support received by higher education in 2018
  • Only foundations contributed more than alumni in 2018. They gave out $14.01 billion (30% of the total contributions) to higher education institutions.
  • As per previous statistics, alumni contributions are the "largest or second-largest" when it comes to supporting higher education institutions in the US. Alumni support grew by 495% from 1988 to 2018.

Research Strategy

During the search, your research team could find all the information needed to answer the research question in the public domain. However, the most recent statistical data on higher education in the US is from 2018, according to various education databases, such as the National Center for Education Statistics.

Part
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Part
08

COVID-19 Challenges: Higher Education in the US

Cash flow, Equity, and Scenario Planning are the three challenges that face higher education institutions during this COVID-19 pandemic period. A comprehensive analysis of the challenges has been given below.

CASH FLOW

  • Cash flow is the most immediate challenge because institutions lose out on several income sources such as dining outlet sales, parking fees, and other supplementary revenues.
  • Uncertainty about enrollments during the fall season also further aggravates the cash flow challenge. Universities and Colleges are likely to face unexpected attrition if students don't return to these institutions. Attrition is most likely to be caused by students who will be unable to raise tuition fees owing to this turf economic times or dissatisfaction with long-distance learning. Other students may shun from going to institutions that are far from home and instead go for closer ones during these uncertain times.
  • The guidelines on social distancing and quarantine have made it difficult for Universities to sell themselves to prospective classes because students cannot tour the Universities.
  • Other expenses such as fees refund, scaling Virtual modalities are likely to be faced, which in turn will force these institutions to reorganize their operations.
  • An article from The Washington Post published on March 20, 2020, shows how higher education groups push Congress to approve $50billion for relief. Besides, higher education leaders seek $7.8 billion as interest-free loans to cater to anticipated cash flow problems.

EQUITY

  • Since the majority of higher learning institutions have abolished the in-person classes at school, residential education is common during this COVID-19 period. The obvious downside to this trend is that residential education does not provide the same opportunities for success to all students. Students from privileged backgrounds have the advantage of access to resources which their less privileged counterparts cannot.
  • Students study in the same library at school, attend the same classes, and use the same resources, such as athletic centers, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the divide in higher education. The epidemic has shown how students from privileged backgrounds have advantages of resources, which results in advantages in remote learning.

SCENARIO PLANNING

  • Returning and prospective students need to rethink their college plans as the fall season approaches due to the current financial crisis. However, studies show that higher learning institutions often experience a bump in enrollment during periods of economic crisis. These institutions have to take into consideration all these possibilities to scale up student services.
  • It is highly unlikely that parents will incur the same expenses towards their children's education during this pandemic period as compared to before the pandemic, even though the influx of students is likely to surge. This means the institutions will not be in a strong financial position as compared to previous enrollments.
  • As a result, institutions will have to alter their financial strategies and hence consider offering students staggered starts, reduce course load, and flexible scheduling to ease the transition of students who will still want to spend more time at home.

Part
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Part
09

Civil Unrest Challenges: Higher Education in the US

Higher education institutions in the US are facing the challenges of uprooting institutional racism, ensuring student safety, and strengthening inclusivity in light of the civil unrest caused by George Floyd's death. These and other findings are outlined below.

Institutional Racism


Student Safety


Inclusivity

Part
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Part
10

COVID-19 Impact: Higher Education in the US

COVID-19 has disrupted normal life, and higher education has not been spared. Normal campus activities such as face to face learning and the normal graduation ceremonies have been prohibited. The pandemic is also taking a toll on institutions' finances. Universities are being forced to make hard decisions of letting staff go and reducing salaries. University and college reopening plans are now under the directives of state governments.

Learning disruption

  • In the wake of the pandemic, universities and colleges in the US have been forced to convert to online-only courses. Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) has chosen to complete the Spring 2020 semester online. Students have been encouraged to follow up on their classes. Professors, on the other hand, have been urged to continue giving instructions to their students. The move has provided an option for students to stay at home. Students can also choose to stay on campus in some institutions while studying online.
  • Other higher learning institutions that have decided to go virtual include Princeton, Yale, University of Chicago, Cornell, John Hopkins University, among others.
  • Experts are already predicting that the pandemic may leave a long-lasting impact. As campuses move their programming, career development and student life online, higher education will now be easy to access. Living at home while attending school may become a favorable option for students.

Effect on campus activities

  • Important campus activities like graduation ceremonies, alongside other regular events and activities, have been suspended for the spring semester. Universities like the Lincoln Memorial have already announced that completed degrees will be conferred to candidates without a ceremony. On the other hand, the University of Chicago is planning a virtual graduation ceremony for the class of 2020.
  • While some activities remain active in some institutions, management is taking deliberate steps to ensure there are minimal gatherings and interactions around campus. For instance, in Lincoln Memorial, public facilities like the LMU pool and the wellness center have been closed. Essential areas such as food cafeterias remain open, but for takeout services only.
  • Travel arrangements for university employees and students also remain suspended in LMU like in other campuses. In addition, international students have been advised against unnecessary travel. Schools are advising travelling students to make informed decisions by considering the mandatory quarantine time frames that have been adopted by the government. A delayed return might affect their ability to complete a course, and may also create financial aid consequences.
  • Admission disruptions

      • Universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, and Duke University, among others, have closed their admissions office. Students joining these campuses have no option but to wait.
      • Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania is offering a virtual tour for newly admitted students. Harvard's "Visitas-Harvard's weekend" for newly admitted students is also online

The financial impact on universities and colleges

  • Due to the impact of COVID-19, the University of Wisconsin projects a $100 million loss. Additional loss from lower enrollment is also set to hit the campus in the coming fall. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that oversees 14 universities is also estimating a $100 million loss from board and room fees. The University of Arizona estimates $250 million loss, University of Michigan estimates an upward of $400 million. Syracuse University has already incurred $35 million in expenses as a result of the pandemic.
  • Financial ramifications appear to be inevitable in most colleges as a result of the pandemic. In order to weather the storm, colleges are being forced to evaluate their finances by cutting down costs and keeping essential expenditures. Staff and employees of the University of Arizona, for instance, are facing temporary pay cuts and furloughs.
  • "Former vice president of business affairs and human resources at the University of Arizona, Allison Vaillancourt, asserts that some small learning institutions may have to close, while larger institutions may be forced to reduce faculties, payments and benefits.
  • Vaillancourt points out that many institutions in the United States rely on international students who usually pay full tuition. If these students are reluctant to join US colleges due to fear of COVID-19 or are barred from entering the country, colleges may lose significant tuition support.
  • Decreased giving

    • The nature of giving to institutions may also be affected significantly as a result of COVID-19. While the wealthy donors may not feel the constraints, parents and alumni who give annually in funds and gifts may be restrained. Emily Weisgrau of Weiswood Strategy asserts that these small donations add up to millions, and they account for a significant portion of institutions' revenues.
    • Furthermore, Mike Proctor of BrokerScholar, says that scholarship submission is on the decline. In a Forbes article, Proctor added that organizations that offer scholarships to students are being forced to cut down their budget costs as a result of the COVID-19 impact.


Re-opening plans

  • Learning institutions such as the Lawrence Technological Institute and Lebanon Valley College are waiting for a go-ahead from their respective state governments in order to announce their re-opening plans.
  • Directives are according to state protocols concerning the pandemic and may vary depending on the state where the institution is located. Institutions in New York are still waiting on the governor's guidance. In Indiana, however, the state has already announced plans to re-open, and institutions are heeding.

Part
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Part
11

COVID-19 Closures: Higher Education in the US

Two case studies of higher education institutions that have addressed COVID-19 closures include the University of California, Santa Cruz and Liberty University. The former chose to comply with state regulations and the latter chose to defy state orders. Details regarding each school can be found below.

University of California, Santa Cruz

  • UC Santa Cruz began addressing COVID-19 concerns very early, beginning with an announcement to encourage students and staff to avoid non-essential travel to China on January 24, 2020. They also asked anyone who travels to China for essential reasons to register their trip with UC International Travel Registry.
  • The institution continuously published CDC recommendations on their website and encouraged students and staff to follow them.
  • The institution warned students and staff on March 8, 2020 that they may need to prepare to shift to working and studying remotely, ahead of any college closures, because there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Santa Cruz.
  • They began making changes to their campus on March 10, 2020 that included closing lecture halls, moving advising sessions online, and sending out documents to prepare instructors to move to remote teaching.
  • On March 16, 2020, the college complied with Stay-at-Home orders from the government and closed their campuses, moving all operations fully online.
  • They announced on April 2, 2020, that there would be no layoffs of any kind of their staff and faculty. While hours may be reduced, the institution made a "promise" to provide as much work as possible to ensure paychecks through June 30, 2020.

Funding

  • The CARES act provided UCSC with $19.3 million to help the financial impact of COVID-19.
  • They divided the funds and provided direct advancements to their neediest students to help with "food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and child-care expenses".
  • They also chose to not require any new application fees for upcoming semesters to reduce the financial burden on students.
  • UCSC created a program called Slug Support that can help students with financial emergencies that may arise from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Slug Support program has been contributed to by 246 donors and has raised over $81,000.

Liberty University

  • At the end of March, Liberty University re-opened their campus despite the state's active Stay-at-Home order. They also ordered faculty to continue to work on-campus, even though classes had been moved online.
  • By the end of the opening week, seven students had COVID-19 symptoms, though only one actually tested positive.
  • President Falwell had assured state officials that he would be complying with all state orders and leave the school closed only a week before re-opening it.
  • Campus housing was never fully closed and students were not asked or forced to leave.
  • The re-opening sparked a lawsuit from an undisclosed student, alleging the University's actions put their health at risk. The school did not initially offer any refunds or financial assistance when classes were moved online, and the suit seeks damages for this fact as well.
  • Liberty University plans to fully re-open with in person classes on August 24, 2020.
  • The university published an article talking about the various "positive" media it was receiving regarding its actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funding

  • In lieu of residential fee refunds, Liberty University offered $1,000 in credits towards next year's fees for any student that chose to leave student housing.
  • The university created its own grant fund that will offer new online students either $1,700 or $3,400 in grants.
  • Liberty University also received just over $7.2 million from the CARES act funding program.
  • President Falwell said that all the CARES funding would be given to its students, though he has not disclosed how it would be divided or what it would be used for.
Part
12
of twelve
Part
12

Innovations: Higher Education in the US

Two of the top innovations implemented by higher educations institutions in the U.S are the use of virtual reality technology for campus tours and classes. The University of North Carolina has launched a virtual tour of its 16 schools across the state that is accessible by VR headset, and a professor at the University of North Carolina has organized a virtual reality class. Both innovations have appeared in numerous publications online and in the media.

1) University of North Carolina: VR tours

Description

  • A 360-degree virtual reality tour of the 16 universities of the University of North Carolina has been created that can be viewed through the GEAR UP NC VR app and a VR headset.
  • The uniqueness of this app compared to other colleges is that it gives access to VR tours of all 16 schools belonging to the University of North Carolina system.
  • The app is free and is available on both Apple and Google platforms.
  • The VR tour makes it possible to connect online with current students and staff from universities to ask questions and learn more about the institution.
  • In normal times, the University of North Carolina receives around 10,000 visitors just in April. Since the campus had to cancel these visits, the university has launched a project that they were planning to implement for a while, which is virtual visits in 3-D.
  • These consist in interactive information sessions and guided virtual tours. The project has been in development for many months and was finally released during the pandemic.
  • Prospective students that registered for in-person tours were sent emails notifying them of their cancellation and giving them the option for the virtual tour.
  • A Q&A session follows the guided tour.
  • The option of the virtual tour could be kept for the future post-Covid visits.
  • Each VR tour can accommodate 50 people to give them the possibility to ask questions.

Implemented Reason

  • As the Covid-19 crisis has forced many universities and colleges to close and cancel campus tours for prospective students, one of the best options to replicate the experience is to use Virtual Reality (VR) tours to help students explore their future college.

Time to Implement

  • The technology and app dates from before the Covid-19 crisis in 2017, but it was not rolled on until the closure of campuses.
  • The project was the result of a partnership between GEAR UP NC and the Chapel Hill Emerging Technologies Lab at the University of North Carolina and received funding from the Department of Education.
  • The project was in development for months but it was made to be ready just in time during the pandemic.

2) VR Teaching: North Carolina University

Description

  • Stephen King, an associate professor at the Hussman School of Journalism and Media in North Carolina University, has created a virtual 3D version of his classroom, with the possibility for his 28 students to walk around and gather in groups in the virtual environment.
  • King had been testing a variety of different VR platforms to host the class before settling on AltspaceVR after its adoption by students.
  • He used his expertise in emerging technologies to develop the virtual classroom environment.
  • In his research and work, King mixes computer science, designs centered around humans, and storytelling to invent new ways to teach using emerging technologies such as VR.
  • Students were sent Oculus Go headsets and could use them to join a virtual reality class where they are represented as avatars such as pandas, robots, ducks and a variety of other characters.
  • The virtual environment is a representation of a real physical space within the university called the UNC Reese Innovation Lab that is used for the creation and sharing of immersive experiences in storytelling.
  • In addition to providing a great solution for online and remote learning, the technology allows teaching how to interact in a virtual world.
  • It is also possible for students to write on virtual whiteboards.

Implementation Reason

  • Most universities have switched to online and remote classes using Zoom, Teams or other software.
  • But it is not as interactive or social as having a virtual reality class, which is a unique setting for remote classes.
  • King has been researching new ways to teach before the crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic has given him the ideal opportunity to trial his idea.
  • VR is a unique immersive experience.
  • Students feel that VR allows them to engage more in class than when using Zoom.
  • King felt that the crisis was the ideal opportunity to try to find new ways of teaching and be creative and innovative.
  • Students had already started learning about the technology during the semester.

Time to Implement




Sources
Sources

From Part 03
Quotes
  • "Alongside Veal, Clarence Hill, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, told FOX 25: "If we just send a little statement and are just excited in this moment, but we don’t do anything in-between tragedies, then we’re not doing what it takes to see change.""
Quotes
  • "“Two years ago, on April 4, 2018, bells were rung around the world ... they were rung in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr ... they were rung 39 times, one for each year of his too-short life,” she said. “Ringing bells, it’s a start, on Friday, to honor, remember.” But Whitesell and the other leaders agreed this is not enough. "
Quotes
  • "“Grief is not enough. Prayer is not enough,“ Lewis said. “It’s a baby, first step for denominations to decry the violence. The next step is, what will you do to make sure your congregations are not racist?”"
Quotes
  • "It is clear from many passages that the religious movement had a primary concern to care for the oppressed and that in that context, unrest can sometimes be justified."
Quotes
  • "“I don’t know about you but I’ll take a president with a Bible in his hand in front of a church over far left violent radicals setting a church on fire any day of the week,” wrote David Brody, a news anchor at the Christian Broadcasting Network. "
Quotes
  • "After President Trump ordered the use of tear gas to disperse a group of peaceful protestors outside the White House so he could take a photo in front of the St. John’s Episcopal Church—as well as a second religious visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine—the country's top Catholic and Episcopalian Bishops have issued rare condemnations of the President."
Quotes
  • "It was because the president, who spent part of the weekend in a secure bunker as protests roiled, wanted to have his picture taken holding a Bible at a battered church just beyond the gates."
From Part 10
From Part 12