Tuition Revenue Influences Whether Colleges Are Remote or In Person


Money and politics, rather than COVID-19 incidence rates, were the biggest influences for colleges deciding whether to return to in-person instruction in fall 2020, a new study has found.

Professor Amy Adamczyk of John Jay College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, was an author on the study, published in Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World.

Adamczyk and her co-author looked at data on 87% of two- and four-year public and four-year private colleges in the U.S. They didn’t find much data on tribal colleges or specialized schools like art and culinary institutions, and as a result didn’t include them in the study.

The authors looked at over two dozen factors that could plausibly have influenced administrators’ decisions, and found that the single biggest predictor of whether a school went mostly remote or mostly in-person was the percentage of a school’s revenue that came from tuition. A possible explanation for this: Colleges anticipated that many students would defer or not enroll if they couldn’t have the full experience of in-person classes, networking opportunities, and campus life and resources. Thus, schools that make a greater percentage of their revenue from tuition would be more concerned about losing money.

The next two biggest factors were the percent of the state that voted for Trump in 2016, and dorm capacity—a higher percentage of either one meant a higher chance of returning to significant amounts of in-person instruction.

The proportion of infections and deaths due to the coronavirus in the schools’ local communities appeared to have had no effect on these decisions, nor did resistance to reopening from faculty.

Additionally, schools with higher undergraduate enrollment were less likely to go back to mostly in-person learning. This could be due to the difficulty of COVID-19 safety logistics and obtaining PPE for such a big population, and the challenge of social distancing in classes of hundreds of students.

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work

Online or in Person? Examining College Decisions to Reopen during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Fall 2020
Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World, 2021

Work By

Amy Adamczyk (Professor, Sociology) | Profile 1 | Profile 2