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?BREAKING NEWS: 2U, the ed-tech company that partners with universities to put their programs online, announced this morning that it will acquire most of the assets of edX, the non-profit learning platform started as a provider of MOOCs (massive open online courses) nearly a decade ago by Harvard and MIT.

  • 2U’s CEO, Chip Paucek, wrote to me early this morning: “By combining 2U and edX’s global reach and offerings from free to degree, together we believe we can meet the growing worldwide demand for online education.”

?Good morning, and thanks for reading NEXT. It’s a little shorter today—900 words and a 3 1/2-minute read—as we enter summer and all need a break.

Social Re-entry

We’re all trying to be social again after a year of keeping our distance from friends, family, and workplaces. There are awkward moments—what to say, how not to just talk after a year of so many things to say.

For teenagers—indeed, all kids—time with their peers is a crucial piece of development. Now, as college officials begin planning for the return to some normalcy on campuses this fall, they’re worried about how students will handle the re-entry to college life.

Last week, I moderated a virtual “salon dinner” for a small group of vice presidents of student affairs at a range of residential colleges and universities. The conversation was off-the-record, but a few agreed afterwards to allow their comments to be used here as long as I didn’t name them or their institutions.

What’s happening: The student affairs leaders who participated in the conversation are particularly concerned about the incoming freshmen this fall.

  • The Class of 2021 lost not only regular in-person learning during a chunk of their junior year and all of their senior year of high school, but also extracurricular and social activities, such as proms, sports, and simply hanging out.
  • Those last years of high school are a period when students typically experiment with alcohol and sex. While Gen Z (those born since 1995) were as a cohort less likely to drink and have sex in high school compared to previous generations, according to experts, rates of binge drinking and sexual assault hadn’t declined in college pre-pandemic.

Why it matters: The concern among those in student affairs—and even some parents of recent graduates—is that these pandemic teenagers didn’t have a chance to exercise their social development and evolve in their maturity over the last 15 months.

  • “There’s a lot of pent-up demand to do things and the first chance they’ll really be able to do that is this fall on campus,” said one vice president at a public university in the Northeast.
  • Another from a private college with fraternities described what he’s expecting this fall as a scene from Animal House, the 1978 movie about a trouble-making fraternity at fictional Faber College.
  • A related worry: vaccinations. “Remember, teenagers are lagging behind the general population in getting vaccinated,” another vice president at a regional public university said. “We saw spikes in the virus last year as our students socialized. Now with most of the restrictions off, our community could become a real hot spot.”

By the numbers: The consequences of college-going students being cooped up with parents and siblings and hitting pause on their social development is still unclear. A very unscientific poll that I took about this question on LinkedIn recently among my 500,000 followers garnered more than 700 responses:

The big picture: The impact of the pandemic on teenagers goes well beyond their social development. The bulk of the conversation during the virtual roundtable was focused on student mental health.

  • Mental health is the top concern of college presidents going into the fall of 2021, according to an American Council on Education survey—topping even the financial health of colleges.
  • Gen Z was already coming to college less seasoned than previous generations even before Covid-19 locked them at home with their parents and forced them to communicate with friends from a distance. 
  • Half of the students surveyed by McKinsey & Co. said Covid-19 had affected their emotional and mental preparedness to enroll in college.
  • A poll of more than 7,000 students in the class of 2022 by niche.com found only half felt confident that they would be socially and emotionally prepared for college, a decline of a third from the class of 2020. 

The bottom line: No wonder why wellbeing and safety is what prospective students and their families are looking for in campuses.

  • Yes, here’s another unscientific survey from my LinkedIn followers but it echos similar findings from other polls.
  • Yet when I talk to would-be college students and their families they’re not finding enough about wellbeing and health in recruitment materials to adequately compare institutions.


Income Inequality and Automation
Income Inequality and Automation www.axios.com

Automation technology has been the primary driver in U.S. income inequality over the past 40 years, according to a new paper by two prominent economists in the field.

NCAA Proposes Interim Policy for Athletes to Profit From Images
NCAA Proposes Interim Policy for Athletes to Profit From Imageswww.nytimes.com
Pressured by a wave of state laws taking effect on July 1, the college sports industry is on the verge of letting players profit off their names, images and likenesses.

Hunt Is On for High-School Graduates Who Left the College Path
Schools are turning to phone calls and scholarships to lure pandemic graduates back to campus.

Until next time, Cheers — Jeff

To get in touch, find me on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn.

Jeff has written about higher education for more than two decades and is a New York Times bestselling author of three books. His latest, Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, was published in September...