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Assessing Higher Education in a Post-Pandemic Virginia

Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVA

The pandemic is changing many aspects of life as we now know it, and that’s a trend that will only continue for the rest of the year.

Even before the pandemic, virtual learning was becoming an increasing part of colleges and universities — on-campus and off.

Spencer Shanholtz at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at UVA looked at students enrolled in at least one online course. He found that private colleges and universities are leading the way, especially one particular institution in Lynchburg.

“Almost 90% of students enrolled at Liberty take at least one online course," explains Shanholtz. "And a great portion of those take all of their courses online, and a lot of those are also from out of state.”

Other schools with significant online enrollment are George Mason University, Old Dominion University and Northern Virginia Community College.

Joe Defilippo at the State Council for Higher Education says it’s a trend that’s about to explode. 

“We’re in the middle of a great experiment, and institutions and individuals — both faculty and students — are going to be discovering all kinds of things that they can do and that they can’t do," he says. "And when we come out of the other side of that experiment, the landscape is going to be changed.”

But will that landscape be different five years from now or ten years from now? Defillipo says he doesn’t expect the old landscape to go away entirely, although he does think post-pandemic higher ed will incorporate more computers and more distance learning.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.