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'The Uncertainty Is Particularly Frustrating': How KDKA's Ken Rice Sees The Future Of Higher Education Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

NOTE: This is a commentary.

So here we are, week 7 of the pandemic shutdown, and I still can't really imagine what things are going to be like when we're allowed out again.

And the uncertainty is particularly frustrating for parents, like my wife and me, who have kids in college right now.

Actually, we have one graduating this week from a locked-down university. There is no commencement ceremony. There are no parties, no hugs goodbye. No, the grand finale of the four most consequential years of our daughter's young life will amount to logging out of her laptop, closing the door of her apartment and driving away from a ghostly, shuttered campus.

We have another kid finishing up his freshman year of college – also on a laptop – in his bedroom. It's not ideal.

Neither kid knows what's next. And I don't either.

Will colleges really bring everyone back in the fall? Into classrooms, dorms and dining halls?

Will professors – older ones, especially – accept the risk of in-person instruction?

Does a crowded college campus make any sense at all, until there's a vaccine?

The President of Brown University in Rhode Island argues that it does.

In a New York Times op-ed, Christina Paxson argued that the reopening of college campuses in the fall should be a national priority.

To make it possible, she imagines testing all students when they first arrive on campus and at regular intervals throughout the year.

She'd use location data from students' phones to notify them if they've been around someone who tests positive.

And she suggests setting aside spaces, maybe hotel rooms, for isolating and quarantining students exposed to the virus.

Yes, there would be sports, in empty stadiums. Everyone might have to wear masks on campus. And "virtual" social events might have to replace parties for a while.

It's hard to imagine, isn't it? Then again, wouldn't these past six weeks have been impossible to imagine?

Imagination is the first step to getting us out of this.

So yes, I can imagine robust public health safeguards working, even on a college campus.

I can imagine people being willing to wear masks to protect each other.

And I can imagine – eventually – a vaccine.

How about that. I guess I can imagine how this could end after all.

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