In Michigan, 46,000 Students May Have Nowhere To Go

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says he may not open the school, at all, this year. The decision will be made soon. If he keeps the school shuttered, over 46,000 students will have nowhere to go from August until next May. It could be a decision that is repeated at colleges and universities around the country which would leave hundreds of thousands of students stuck with online learning if they elect to be students at all.

The University of Michigan is one of the finest universities in the country. U.S.News, which has an influential rating of the country’s colleges and universities ranks it in 25th place among all the nation’s universities. It serves students from across and country, and particularly students from the state who have graduated from Michigan’s high schools. In all, it serves students from all 50 states and 139 countries.

The university has 29,821 undergraduates and 13,415 graduate students. It has among the best law schools, business schools, and medical schools in the country. It has another 15,135 staff members. Some portion of these will lose their jobs if the university closes for a year.

The University of Michigan’s decision could mean that thousands of students will lose an entire academic year. Those who elect distance learning will not have the advantages of classroom and teacher interaction. It is not clear yet what students miss if they study online. However, no one thinks it is a complete education. Online programs may leave students less ready for their next academic years. It could be an undereducated population that will fall like dominos in the years ahead. How does one take poorly educated students and put them back into a challenging academic environment?

The University of Michigan’s decision will not only affect tens of thousands of students. If will also show what happens if students must skip a year of among the best educations in America.