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Coronavirus Pandemic Makes Plans Complicated For College Students

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Many college students are considering hitting the pause button on going away to school.

As CBS 2's Marissa Parra reported Thursday, the students are uncertain about whether they will even have classes in person, and are considering the money they could save.

I'm definitely feeling anxious," said Abigail Feingold, an incoming first year in the College at the University of Chicago.

Feingold was accepted to the U of C just weeks before the pandemic would upend all life as we knew it.

"For the first time people are going, 'Is your class in person or is it online?' which has never been a discussion before," she said.

Through Chicago Scholars, chief executive officer Dominique Jordan Turner works with more than 2,500 students across Chicago and says the anxiety is mounting as fall approaches.

"There's so much decision fatigue, even when they're not in a pandemic," she said.

That is the case especially as schools roll out their pandemic plans, and they're not all the same.

"Some colleges have said, 'We're going to be on campus,' some have said, 'We're going to do full distance learning,' and then some have a hybrid model," Turner said.

A big question for students and families is deciding which experience is worth the hefty price of tuition.

"I definitely was considering a gap year," said U of C rising second-year David Calahan. "People deciding to take a gap year or leave of absence has been much more popular."

The Federal Reserve Bank estimates taking a gap year could cost roughly $90,000 of your work life in the long run, which is not an option for everyone.

For those looking to cut costs, community college has been looking like an attractive option.

"We're seeing students who were going to go to university who are now deciding to come to us," said Dr. Mark Curtis-Chavez, provost at the College of DuPage.

The College of DuPage said it is seeing an increase in enrollment interest as students pivot.

Out of the 700 rising college freshmen Turner's Chicago Scholars program mentors, roughly 20 of them have changed their plans – some because of cost,a and one to be closer to home.

"He's the oldest of 13 siblings," Turner said. "He feels a sense of responsibility to his family."

With just two months left until his second year at the U of C, Calahan said he is done worrying and taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I'm kind of just in a state of limbo," he said. "I'm just trying my best to roll with the punches as things get changed."

Many schools that are offering in-person classes require negative COVID-19 tests and are offering single dorm rooms.

All the college and universities whose representatives Parra spoke with on Thursday made it clear that the plans they have in place are dependent on COVID-19 cases, and what else we learn about the virus itself.


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