Colleges need to innovate to create safe, productive campuses amid COVID-19
This past month, the leaders of three of Virginia’s most prominent public colleges — the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University — proposed that the state dedicate $200 million in federal COVID-19 relief for testing on campuses during the 2020-21 school year.
“In our shared view, expanded testing and the associated costs are unavoidable,” wrote presidents Jim Ryan of UVA, Timothy Sands of Virginia Tech and Michael Rao of VCU in a June 8 letter to state Health and Human Resources Secretary Daniel Carey. “Prompt action will allow both for more effective implementation of such testing and for more efficient management of the potential costs.”
Higher ed institutions often turn to money to solve problems, through tuition increases, fundraising, state assistance or other means. Testing certainly will be a key element to ensuring a safe reopening of our colleges and universities. Even if or when a vaccine comes, we expect COVID-19 to be a core part of health services.
But augmenting behavior and practices will be just as critical to controlling the community spread of the coronavirus going forward. Colleges need to innovate to create safe, productive campuses amid COVID-19. There are existing systems that can be adapted.
Coalitions help produce results. Students normally congregate in dining halls to eat and socialize. But they’re also given university IDs that can serve as debit cards at off-campus locations. And the service not only is available to students. It also can be used by faculty, staff and visitors. Has VCU considered expanding its RamBucks program and partnerships with area businesses to create safer contactless purchase or delivery options, and help the local economy?
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