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We had planned to write this week about what’s ahead for higher ed in 2021. But amid our national turbulence, that seems quite beside the point.

So we’ll just quickly flag a few things we’re thinking about, give you some Open Campus updates, and then hope we can get back to something approximating normalcy next week.

Democrats in Control in Washington

With their double victories in Georgia this week, Democrats will control the Senate and that could mean more federal aid to colleges, as well as state governments. The slim Democratic advantage in a 50–50 Senate may make big legislation (e.g., a free college proposal) tough to pass. But Democrats will be able to use reconciliation on spending bills (e.g., more coronavirus aid) to avoid the filibuster. (More from Higher Ed Dive.)

Democrats taking control of Congress “will change everything, but it will guarantee nothing,” a higher-ed lobbyist told The Chronicle.

Another Pandemic-disrupted Semester

2021 may eventually mark the end of the pandemic — but we’re still a ways from that. In the meantime, numerous colleges are shuffling their calendars again. Some are delaying the start of the semester. Others are starting entirely online but planning to get back to in-person instruction in February. As we’ve seen, plans in the pandemic have a way of constantly changing. (More from Inside Higher Ed.)

State Financial Reckoning

Across the country, public universities are bracing for deeper cuts as states figure out just how bad the next budget year will be. (A few examples from Minnesota, North Dakota, and Hawaii.)

“We know that the fiscal impacts will not be temporary,” a University of Hawaii regent told legislators in December. “The fiscal impacts we predict will go on for years and will get worse in the next two or three years.”

+ Hear Sara talk about what’s ahead on the higher ed beat, and what’s at stake, in this EWA Radio episode.

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Our New El Paso Reporter

Jewél Jackson

We’re excited to welcome Jewél Jackson, who will join our Open Campus network as the higher ed reporter for El Paso Matters. Her first day is February 1.

Jewél, a recent graduate of Syracuse University, has interned at the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WFPL News in Louisville. At Syracuse, she was editor-in-chief of Femme Noire Magazine, an assistant opinion editor at The Daily Orange, and the co-founder of a mentorship program for students of color and LGBTQ+ students.

“As cliche as it sounds, I’ve always been interested in journalism,” Jewél says. “When I was a child I was the kid who was completing the summer reading challenges with my public library, or read with a night light under the covers when I was supposed to go to bed, or wrote through several journals during my childhood.”

Her interest in investigative journalism was sparked by the book, “Five Days at Memorial,” Sheri Fink’s examination of death at a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina.

Writing about protests at Syracuse in the wake of racial incidents, she says, helped her see how interconnected the university and its community are.

“I quickly learned that what occurred on my campus directly impacted the local city of Syracuse and its residents,” Jewél says. “While I still have a lot to learn about El Paso and the community, I know that the students are creating change that will impact the city and state.”

Thanks for Helping Us Grow

Thank you for your support during our end-of-the-year campaign. We raised just over $13,800 from 101 donors. With matching dollars and bonuses added from NewsMatch, that means we’ll bring in a total of just over $28,800.

Your support helps us sustain our national newsletters and local reporting — and it helps us build a foundation on which to grow in 2021. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: We’re grateful. We wouldn’t be here without you.

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Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Open Campus