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MAPS Project Documents Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Ed

Last August, Utah's legislature decreased the budget for higher education in the state by 2.5 percent for fiscal year 2021 — presumably a decision influenced by COVID-19. But that's hardly the only state that has seen a reduction in public allocations to colleges and universities. Florida and Kentucky institutions will see drops of 22.5 percent. In New York it will be a 20 percent cut and in Nevada, 19 percent.

Those numbers are being shared through a public data dashboard intended to track the impact of COVID-19 on higher ed in three areas: state, institution and student. The "MAPS Project," as it's called, is being produced by the Sorenson Impact Center, which is part of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.

The goal of the project, according to the Sorenson website, is to help address "the inequities within higher education, particularly for students from historically underrepresented populations in higher education, first generation students and those from both urban and rural backgrounds."

Besides collecting data state-by-state for higher ed appropriations, the MAPS Project has compiled the results of 30-plus surveys that have been deployed to students nationally and more than 20 surveys that have been deployed at specific institutions.

Student results examine physical health, technological, impact, future plans, support systems, financial outlook and mental health. For example, in the area of technology, the survey results showed three "high-level" findings:

  • Students identifying as Asian/Asian American, Hispanic/Latinx, and Black/African American were more likely to consider online education;
  • Students identifying as Latinx/Hispanic and Asian/Asian American were especially concerned about online learning; and
  • Students with disabilities found online learning less difficult.

Institutional data examines mergers and closures and prioritization measures.

The Sorenson Impact Center is currently recruiting "future and current students" from across the country, in different kinds of schools and with diverse backgrounds, to serve as a cohort that will share their experiences of COVID-19 and how it has affected their education. The website currently provides the stories of six students who have explained how the pandemic is affecting their college experiences, under the title, "I Am Not an Outlier."

The Maps Project is openly available on the Sorenson website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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