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Ohio colleges, universities racing to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic

Students make college choices without knowing campus learning environment.

OHIO, USA — Choosing what college to attend come fall is more difficult this year than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has already hit colleges and universities hard financially. And there’s still uncertainty about how classes will be conducted come fall.

Now at least one local university is making some offers to make that decision easier. Walsh University is offering free housing to freshmen, tuition freezes, and adding majors to attract students.

“These new programs, these new initiatives are not just for those that might come, but they're also for those that are already enrolled with us,” said Walsh University president Dr. Tim Collins.

At Walsh University and other colleges around the country, it’s very likely campus life will be different, if allowed to exist at all.

“We’re not sure if we're going to be residential or not,” said Collins. “There's a lot that goes into that decision. We are positioning ourselves so that we can have a residential life experience following the guidelines that governments issue in order to keep the community safe.”

In California, leaders of the state’s university system have already decided the safest option is online-only for the fall semester. There will be few options for in person activity such as research labs. Those would continue on campus with small class sizes and students wearing personal protective equipment. In Ohio, state leaders have yet to decide how campuses will function in the new academic year.

3News asked advisors from College Now of Greater Cleveland whether the online environment from a 4-year institution – which can cost upwards of $20,000 each year depending on the university – is worthwhile.

“There is a difference in you know that type of education you might receive from different institutions. And that's just the nature of having different institutions,” said Dr. Michele Scott Taylor, Chief Program Officer for College Now of Greater Cleveland.

While general education credits easily transfer from less expensive community colleges to 4-year universities, the early cost savings may not be beneficial in the long run. Transfer students are not always offered the same financial incentives as students who commit to a school on the first day.

Dr. Scott Taylor says, “many students still have time to kind of review financial aid packages and to make that final decision.”

Regardless of what you decide, college leaders want you to go somewhere.

“Higher education is a must have in America,” said Dr. Collins

Dr. Scott Taylor added, “We still need lots of college educated folks to help change the world.”

Deadlines are quickly approaching meaning most parents and students will have to decide without knowing what will happen. College now advisors are still working remotely offering assistance to students who are seeking advice.

RELATED: Bowling Green State University plans to resume face-to-face classes in fall

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RELATED: Gov. DeWine says Ohio could potentially have 'hybrid' system where students only go to school 2 days a week in the fall