Financial Stress and Health Considerations: A Tradeoff in the Reopening Decisions of U.S. Liberal Arts Colleges During The COVID-19 Pandemic

This paper presents empirical evidence on factors influencing choices made by members of the Annapolis Group of Liberal Arts colleges regarding whether to operate primarily in person, primarily online or some flexible alternative during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Binary and multinomial choice model estimates suggest that conditional upon the prevailing level of COVID-19 in their county, financially distressed colleges were about 20 percentage points more likely to opt for primarily in-person operations than less financially distressed colleges. These choices highlight an important potential tradeoff between public health and financial concerns present in the higher education sector.

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