Colleges are facing budget cuts for health center medical staff, testing, and mental health because students are either not on campus or they’re worried about getting COVID-19 if they go to the campus health centers. They don’t want to pay for staff who is idly waiting for patient activity. But this is a problem because colleges really need to have vigilant testing for on-campus and hybrid classes offered now and especially when all students are invited back to on-campus living again. That means that they won’t have the funds for doctors and nurses to care for COVID-19 and other illnesses; coronavirus testing for all students, faculty and staff; and mental health staff to support the growing population of students who need psychological support.
It’s a Catch 22 situation – similar to what’s happening in hospitals today. Hospitals are laying off staff because people are delaying elective surgeries and not going to the hospitals for fear of getting COVID-19, when they really need the staff to be ready for the next wave or surge in cases. On one hand, it makes sense that hospital budgets have been cut because they don’t have the revenue they once had. They’re stretched thin so they cut back their staff. But on the other hand, if the hospitals don’t have the staff needed to handle the surge or for regular elective surgeries when they’re back on the schedule, they won’t be able to manage the sudden increase in their patient load.
On college campuses, they will need to be able to do aggressive testing as soon as students, professors and staff return to campus. This may be in a few weeks, months, or semesters. If they don’t have the budget to test all of their students and test throughout the semester or quarter, they won’t have the data needed to manage outbreaks. It’s vital that colleges have the resources to understand student behavior to prevent surges that may force colleges to quarantine and return to online classes – again.
Let’s hope that college administration on all campuses sets aside budgets that allow for staffing, testing, and quarantining to make a safe transition back to on-campus classes. Those colleges that don’t are penny wise, but pound foolish! Just think about how much more money (and lives) they’ll waste by having to send students home for online classes again.