Molloy President James Lentini Discusses Higher Ed Post-Covid with Newsday

“Strain has been extraordinary” for colleges, universities during pandemic
By Carol Polsky
March 21, 2021

A year after a frightening new virus abruptly forced students to flee campuses for remote instruction, COVID-19 is still upending college life in ways that could reshape how on-campus work gets done and how courses are taught.

Many Long Island students have not returned to in-person classes, while those on campuses remain bound by COVID-19 testing, periodic quarantines, mask wearing and social distancing. Parties are verboten, and isolation, anxiety and financial pressures have spiked demand for counseling and financial aid. Much of campus life, from clubs to concerts to career counseling services, remains virtual.

The scale of the disruption last spring was unprecedented. Within weeks, a crash transformation replaced the usual way of doing business, with a technologically complicated digital education and a remote workforce, all while students, faculty and staff endured the fear of infection and the trauma of loss…

Through these challenges, colleges and universities largely have succeeded in containing the virus and dodged major drops in enrollment... Schools are hoping for a more normal fall semester, following wide-scale vaccinations and lower infection rates, while preparing to switch back to remote mode if necessary…

Administrators look back with pride on how quickly they adapted last spring and are gleaning lessons from an experience that could shape how education is delivered and university work is conducted…

Schools see potential online growth

The rapid infusion of technology and expertise in delivering coursework digitally has accelerated a trend toward more computer classes. Online schools, aimed at older students studying part time while they work and tend families, have seen success in growing enrollment, and established schools said they see this as an area of growth as well…

At schools such as Molloy College in Rockville Centre…noted for their technical and career-oriented programs, online courses that proved successful and online graduate courses likely will expand.

“Probably the worst thing we can do is think we can go back to March 2020 and think it will be the same,” Molloy President James Lentini said. “We’ve made changes. … We have gotten better at all kinds of technology that we maybe wouldn’t have done so quickly” except for the pandemic…

Work life on campus could change

Work life on campus could see significant changes, too, school officials said. Many administrative offices and even service offices for students became remote, with employees working from home. That might continue.

Lentini agreed that for some employees, remote work from home was a plus, and “it could potentially for us solve a space crunch,” while reducing costs and commute time. But, he said, it’s “not for everyone. There are some who very much miss the office experience.”

He added that the college likely would reshape student services after setting up appointments remotely for the last year. “Whether seeking financial aid counseling or career services, those appointments went up 250%,” he said. “I have a feeling there will be more of a mixture of face-to-face and Zoom calls because we learned to do it so well.”

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