ImageIncoming freshmen participate in the “Tiger Walk” at the University of Missouri.
Credit…Owen Ziliak/Missourian, via Associated Press

In most economic downturns, enrollment goes up at community colleges, where most Black, Latino and low-income students enter the higher education system. Not this time.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported Thursday that freshman enrollment is down by 22.7 percent. The center’s executive research director, Doug Shapiro, said the drop was “staggering.”

Across all U.S. colleges and universities, freshman enrollment has dropped more than 16 percent from last year, with declines in every region and at nearly every type of institution.

The falloff could have longstanding repercussions on equity and access for years to come. “The big worry is that people who interrupt their education with the intention of completing it later don’t always do so,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government relations for the American Council on Education, a higher education trade group.

Minority and lower-income groups all have been disproportionately hit by the virus. In addition to economic hardship, the drop at community colleges may also reflect concern that campuses aren’t safe from infection.

Read more: The Times asked five college journalists to report from quarantined campuses.

“Throughout the two weeks that the order was in place, I did my best to comply. But at night I could see and hear scattered groups of students moving between houses, with some still wandering the community maskless. By following the rules, I missed the chance to celebrate my roommate’s birthday with friends, and I missed seeing my girlfriend. Two weeks? Felt like an eternity.” Nick Moran, the editor in chief of The Grand Valley Lanthorn, the college paper at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

Credit…Olivia Waller

That trend can be seen in recent labor statistics, which show that women, especially married women, are suffering from slowing rates of employment during the pandemic.

“The drop in female labor-force participation was quite dismal and not surprising with the return back to school not happening,” Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, told Jessica.

The United States is the only wealthy country in the world that does not offer government-subsidized child care. That has made public schools de facto day care centers — until the pandemic, which upended the entire system, and left many children learning from home for some or all of each week.

The economists that Jessica spoke to thought the dire job situation for women was directly related to remote learning and the lack of available child care.

To be sure, it’s not just moms: Over all, four times more women than men dropped out of the labor force in September. But the closure of schools has been a tipping point for a system that already seemed to be stacked against working moms.

Jessica Calarco, an associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, found that around 40 percent of the over 100 mothers she is studying reported increases in pandemic-related frustrations with their partners.

Rather than ask their spouses to step up their domestic contributions, “mothers blame themselves for these conflicts and feel responsible for reducing them, including by leaving the work force, beginning use of antidepressants, or ignoring their own concerns about Covid-19,” Calarco and her co-authors wrote in a pre-print of a new study.

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  • The president of the State University of New York at Oneonta resigned after more than 700 students tested positive for the virus, in the worst coronavirus outbreak of any public university in the state.

  • Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, said he tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. Two other colleges in his conference, the University of Florida and Louisiana State University, postponed their next game after at least 21 Florida players contracted the virus.

Credit…Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press
  • “I’d say, like, 80 percent of Greek life is living life as normal,” a sorority member told The Michigan Daily, the daily student newspaper of the University of Michigan. “I think that people got here, realized what was possible and threw caution to the wind.”

  • From our ongoing look into the athletic department at the University of California, Berkeley: Andrew McGraw, who recovered from Covid-19, spends his time trying to keep the virus away from the football team.

  • Yale University has raised its alert level after nine new student cases were reported on Tuesday.

Credit…Brittainy Newman for The New York Times
  • The entire student body of a high school in Mississippi has been ordered to quarantine after a series of small virus outbreaks.

  • An 80-person Sweet 16 party in Suffolk County, N.Y., left 37 people infected and forced over 270 into quarantine. After the party, the virus rippled through the country. One school closed amid rising cases and people connected to 34 others had to move to isolation or quarantine.

  • At least 29 percent of educators in Minnesota are considering quitting, according to a survey of more than 9,700 educators in the state’s teachers’ union.

  • Returning students in Boston are struggling with trauma and psychological wounds from the pandemic.

  • School meal programs have lost more than $483 million so far during the pandemic, according to a new survey from the School Nutrition Association.

This week, the Learning section of The Times published a special report on ways that remote learning will shape the future. You can read it online, but we got to take a peek at the Sunday Times print edition, and it’s beautiful.

Some articles delve into the strangeness of this school year and speculations about the future of college sports. Others look at microschools and learning pods.

The section includes a piece by Amelia that compiled stories from you, the readers of the Schools Briefing, about life during remote learning. Here are three from students.

“It is really hard for me to separate the boundaries between school and home, and I often lose productivity.” Ellie Koo, ninth grade, Los Angeles

“Every morning, I wake up, shower, get ready as I usually would, but then I go back to my room.” Nicholas Forcina, 11th grade, Queens, N.Y.

“I go to the lake near my house to watch a blue heron each week.” Fatima Shiliwala, kindergarten, Piscataway, N.J.

We’re so grateful to everyone who replied! Thank you.

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Dani Blum contributed to today’s newsletter.


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