Coronavirus uncertainty pushes seniors to weigh options when picking a college

From taking a gap year to opting for community college classes, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the future for many high school seniors.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The time has come for high school seniors to make a decision about where they will go to college, but what will college look like in the fall and will it be worth the cost?

A growing number of students are considering a gap year before starting college, but that choice comes with risks.

"I would be risking applying to these schools again next fall and not getting into any of them," said high school senior Ben Davidoff.

It's not just incoming freshmen like Davidoff who are making tough choices. If schools do open campuses, how comfortable will parents be sending their children around the country during a pandemic?

"I'm really worried about the second wave hitting when my children are out of town," said Barby Stokols. "It's scary."

Coronavirus: Southern California educator shares insight as students continue learning remotely
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As teachers and students round out the year learning online, one SoCal educator predicts this experience might change the face of traditional schooling forever, especially among the younger generation.

"The decisions we make today will have long-term effects, so there's a lot of pressure to make the right decision," said Parisa Balliet, another concerned parent.

Sophia Balliet will be a sophomore at Loyola Marymount next fall. This week, the school announced plans to have students return to campus, but that could still change depending on the virus.

What won't change is tuition, which is full price, whether in-person or online and some families don't want to risk paying full price for a semester that could be cut short again.

"A lot of my friends, a couple of them are taking gap years, a big majority of them are going to go to the local community college and take classes online and have those credits transfer over as soon as we're able to go back," Sophia said.

"It seems naive and a little bit manipulative to suggest that you can get the same level of education with a professor that you've probably never met, in a class with people you don't know sitting in your bedroom," Davidoff said.

As a result, universities are bracing for a possible 15% decline in enrollment this fall, but community colleges in California are expected to add additional students.

"In times of economic downturn in the past, our numbers tend to go up," said Sunday Salter, transfer director at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. "Students come to the community college because they're looking to retool, retrain, prepare for that next step in their career. We don't just work with high school students, we work with anyone."

Anyone as in upperclassmen who might want to take a semester away from the high cost and uncertainty of their current school. But make sure you follow university guidelines.

"Work it out with the university first so that they're sure to say yes, we'll apply that toward your degree," Salter said.

Educational consultant Rich Cooper feels the student-school relationship is changing with the virus and that can work in your favor.

"Understand what your choices are," Cooper said. "Insist that the colleges are transparent and if they tell you 'I don't know,' that's fine not to know, but then we have to have an open-ended agreement as we move forward."

And if you aren't comfortable with a decision tomorrow, there are other solutions.

"May 1 is here and if it doesn't work for you, then guess what, all the work that you did beforehand, that doesn't get erased," Cooper said. "Bet on yourself. You got there to begin with."
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