Life in a college town

I took a shot at exploring how a truncated college football season might impact a school’s local economy in this post, but noted at the time that it’s hard to make an authoritative calculation because some folks simply aren’t going to bars and restaurants right now, football season or no football season.

This story is largely anecdotal, but it does illustrate the point I was trying to make.  I would not like to be the small business owner forced to grapple with this dilemma:

As some colleges prepare to bring students back to campus in the fall, businesses are reimagining what their day-to-day will look like. At the same time, they are grappling with fears surrounding the risks of bringing students from all over the world back to college campuses.

We’re in a time when there are no easy choices, it seems.

52 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The Body Is A Temple

52 responses to “Life in a college town

  1. Jeff Sanchez

    Downtown Athens is already looking pretty sad these days.

    A cancelled season / distance learning Fall would be disastrous and just continue the march towards chains taking over. Depressing.

    Like

    • jtp03

      Chains would be better than vacant storefronts… at least they provide jobs.

      Like

    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      We drove through downtown Athens a little while ago, and it is always a little slower in the summer, BUT you could have your pick of parking places on the street, almost anywhere you wanted. I can’t remember the last time that happened in the middle of the week.

      Like

  2. sniffer

    This is a tough one. The restaurant industry is fraught with risk and in good times requires close economy and oversight. My stepson owns a bbq joint in New Orleans and is struggling. They chose a location across the street from Tulane for obvious reasons. I don’t see them making it long-term. But that’s the industry they chose, knowing the risks. A good friend owns a large Kawasaki dealership in Central Florida. Made lots of money. Till now. A staff of 22 is now 4. Risk/Reward goes both ways. So, I have a stake in this pandemic beyond how it’s affected me. I’ll help my stepson because that’s what you do and plan for a different future. It’s all changing. Hopefully, some for the good.

    Like

  3. Distance learning would be terrible for a college town. If you can at least get kids on campus that will help the local businesses tremendously even without a full football season.

    Tourism is booming here on the Gulf Coast. This is probably one of the busiest season we have ever had here in PCB. Destin is also experiencing similar traffic. Just extremely busy here everywhere you go. From what we can see, people want to get out and spend that stimulus money. But if you can’t get them in town then you are most definitely doomed.

    Like

    • “Distance learning would be terrible for a college town.”

      Not if Mom and Dad’s student is already locked into a lease for the school year. My daughter and all of her friends are planning to move into their apartments/houses where leases were signed close to a year ago.

      Distance learning will be a disaster for the universities. My daughter has already asked if she can sit the semester out if UGA goes online only. She has committed to finding a job to defray her living expenses in that case. She said she didn’t learn a darn thing after classes went online only in the spring. Some of her friends who are going elsewhere that have already announced online only are taking the semester off for similar reasons.

      Universities are playing with fire if they believe the paying customer is going to keep on paying full retail price for a Walmart learning experience.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The No Significant Difference database was first established in 2004 as a companion piece to Thomas L. Russell’s book, “The No Significant Difference Phenomenon” (2001, IDECC, fifth edition), a fully indexed, comprehensive research bibliography of 355 research reports, summaries and papers that document no significant differences (NSD) in student outcomes between alternate modes of education delivery. Redesigned in 2010 and provided as a service of WCET, (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies), a division of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the database was designed to expand the offerings from the book by providing access to appropriate studies published or discovered after its publication.

        https://detaresearch.org/research-support/no-significant-difference/

        Like

        • I’m telling you my student’s experience. She (and her friends) didn’t like the online experience presented in a pinch last spring. At least one of the two classes she’s taking this summer so she can focus on her major haven’t been any better.

          No matter what research is done to prove a point, if your paying customer’s experience isn’t good, you lose.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Of course they didn’t. Faculty were forced to move their classes mid-stream with no preparation. There is no way that it could have been effective. Online is not for everyone but it can be effective given proper course design. Whether or not faculty are using the time they have to do so has yet to be seen but there are plenty of examples where it can work. If this is, indeed, temporary then online can be a bridge.

            Like

            • I’m only giving you the customer’s perspective. If my initial impression of the revised product is poor (think the New Coke example), the provider already has a mountain to climb just to get back to even with the customer. If the student had a less than stellar experience (and I understand why) and is still being asked to pay 100% of the price for what is PERCEIVED to be an inferior product, that’s a recipe for a lot of problems.

              If UGA announces online only with no student attendance at football games with severe limitations on student life due to distancing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see fall enrollment (especially for upperclassmen) drop as students take a semester off.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Fall enrollment is going to drop no matter what. I’m juts giving you the perspective of someone who spent a decade building online courses for the USG and faced every level of resistance and skepticism. We put together teams of faculty in particularly controversial subjects such as physics and language and asked them to report on whether or not it was feasible to have an online version. Some of the most skeptical folks are still teaching. I am as concerned as you are because I know what it took to build these courses and train the faculty to teach them. https://ecore.usg.edu

                Like

                • I totally understand the challenge. Online learning is here to stay. Don’t take anything from what I wrote of being critical of the concept. I just hope for my student’s sake that her professors make the effort to provide as rich of a learning experience as possible if everything moves online.

                  Like

            • My daughter, the University of Alabama history professor, has been busy creating two syllabi (syllabuses?) for her fall classes: one for in-person, one for online instruction. They’re planning on in-person classes at 50% capacity: half the class in the classroom, the other half online; then for the next class, these groups change places.

              That’s only one of their plans, but for the moment seems the most likely.

              Like

          • Ricky McDurden

            To be fair, nobody had a good Spring experience because 1. There was almost 0 time to adapt a planned course to online instruction and 2. There were bigger concerns for both students and professors that, understandably, distracted from what was happening in classes. So, I’d pump the brakes on using the Spring to judge the Fall (Summer online courses are also a poor measuring stick; they’re not meant to be enjoyable learning experiences, students take them to either improve a grade or move the needle forward on their progress toward graduating).
            That being said, UGA students aren’t paying just for a classroom experience but a campus experience. It’s akin to buying Disney World tickets and being offered an exclusive, live virtual walk-through of the park and rides. The absence of fall football, a carefree downtown experience, carefree living in dorms and apartments, and the ability to freely socialize and network around campus is the real impediment (not just online vs in-person formatting of courses).

            Liked by 1 person

            • As discussed above, I’m only telling you my student’s initial experience with the online platform. It wasn’t good, and it wasn’t what was paid for. Not listening to your customer has been the downfall of so many companies in the private sector.

              Ricky, you absolutely hit a point on the campus experience. If students don’t have a campus experience and the learning experience isn’t good, universities (and the surrounding town) have a bigger problem on their hands.

              Like

            • Groups and organizations are such a big part of college. Intramurals.

              Like

              • You can likely forget about intramural or club sports in the fall. I imagine a ton of student organizations will be forced to meet online only. My daughter has said Panhellenic recruitment is going to be a disaster this fall with primarily online interaction (I believe girls don’t even get to go to houses until the preference round).

                Like

                • Ricky McDurden

                  The first 2 rounds of sorority recruitment are going all-online. I think my biggest concern is that there are students and parents who are still under the delusion that this Fall is going to live up the expectations they had when they applied last Fall or early in the Spring. Students and parents who try to circumvent the guidelines surrounding masks and social distancing are not only going to be disappointed but are going to endanger those around them. Panhellenic and Greek orgs are going to bare a lot of that responsibility and, consequently, a lot of the blame if things get hectic on campus over the next few months. I agree, in-person intramurals are likely going to be shot for the Fall (though I could see some e-sports options being a thing).

                  Liked by 1 person

                • jtp03

                  Greek orgs are going to deserve some of the blame… cruising down Milledge just this weekend and saw several fraternity houses hosting large lawn parties.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Just like independents deserve some of the blame for being downtown at the bars, hosting parties at their off-campus housing or attending said lawn parties as a guest of a member.

                  Like

      • W Cobb Dawg

        “She said she didn’t learn a darn thing after classes went online only in the spring.”

        ee, I’m sympathetic to you and your daughters situation. Whether she likes it or not, online learning is a vital asset and is here to stay. If she intends to successfully operate in society after college is over she had better become somewhat proficient with the online world.

        The Covid situation is the hand we’ve all been dealt. So how do we play that hand? I would think its best to keep one’s eye on the goal (assuming its a degree), and fight through this as best one can. If it means taking classes online and avoiding contracting (or spreading) the virus – and all the possible lifelong health ramifications, maybe that should be considered a blessing and not a curse.

        No offense intended. Just my $0.02.

        Like

        • My daughter is probably more proficient online than most of the commenters here. That’s not the problem. The problem was the delivery of the content. She went to a high school (even her middle school in North Carolina) where a ton of the content was delivered online in addition to the in-person experience. Everyone understood the challenges associated with switching a class from onsite to remote in a two-week period. Some of her professors just slapped the slides, speaking notes, and assignments on the course’s website and said contact me if you have any questions. Some had some degree of remote interaction (definitely seemed to be the exception).

          As I have mentioned elsewhere, you have one chance to make a first impression. For her experience, the first impression wasn’t a good one, and she’s leery of a similar experience in the fall. If you were the paying parent, you would be as well.

          On the question of the virus, she’s been very diligent about taking care of herself and is frustrated her peers (including some friends) are screwing it up. Be honest … a degree is one of the goals of attending college. There are other goals … being involved and learning to be a leader, studying abroad, finding a spouse, building lifelong relationships with a core set of friends, networking and finding a job. Those goals are 10x harder or impossible in a virtual environment. It’s easy for those of us who got a real college experience to tell those today to consider it a blessing … I don’t imagine at 20 I would have been excited about what’s going to be a lousy fall semester.

          Liked by 2 people

      • stoopnagle

        A student can stop out for one year without having to re-apply – and the re-application for a former student is, more or less, a formality provided it’s done by the deadline. The only trick would be if the student is in a co-hort based program, but even then undergrad programs are almost always flexible enough. What is she studying?

        I would expect a lot of students to stop-out. I work directly with undergraduates. I’m seeing a fair amount of traffic from continuing students who want to be entirely on-line in the fall or asking if they can skip the in-person aspects of classes but participate in the virtual ones; so my perspective is a bit different than yours, I’m getting the other side of the coin. All that said, continuing students are not engaged right now; I’ll expect a lot more traffic around student’s expectations in 2-3 weeks.

        Given what I’ve seen around town and sense I get from others, if we’re not completely remote again by Labor Day, we’ll be pretty shocked.

        If I could, I would recommend stopping out and finding something productive to do for a semester. Sadly, my students are in grade/middle school and it’s not really an option.

        Like

        • Studying PR in the J-school

          Like

        • stoop, thanks for the insight. Our oldest did something similar multiple times while she was at UGA by working semesters at Disney multiple times through their college program.

          The problem for this one is she’s involved in one particular organization that she can’t really leave school for a semester. The flip side of that is that she isn’t likely to be able to do much related to it due to the effects of COVID.

          It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens over the next month. I can’t imagine a lot of stop-outs or deferred admissions is something folks on North Campus can be excited about especially considering the budget questions facing all state agencies. I’m sure everyone at UGA is trying like crazy to make the fall semester as close to “normal” as possible.

          Like

    • Yea Florida is doing just great isn’t it?

      Like

    • Yea and our Corona has exploded with it. But the strip club got its license pulled!

      Like

  4. No easy choices indeed…
    The next article up on Vox after your link is “My patient caught COVID twice, so much for herd immunity…” . So now what? Shelter in place and wait for a vaccine? I didn’t bother to read the second article. Of course you can get it twice. You can get the flu every year too, even if you get the shot. Before I get called out for comparing it to the flu, I’m only comparing them as they are both viruses and both highly contagious. What gripes me about the second article is it comes off as fear mongering to me.
    I’ve said it several times: If the kids come back in the fall I will get infected. There is no way around it for me as there is no sure way not to get it if you are in contact with other people. I’ve also said I’m not worried about it and I’m not.
    What will get us back to normal as it’s going to be anymore is a decline in cases and who knows when that will be? Also the first relatively effective vaccine will be a golden goose for some pharmaceutical company. It will also go a long way towards calming people the fuck down if for no other reason that they can finally do something other than living like hermits or wearing a mask that may or may not work to protect themselves. If not from the virus itself from everyone else’s decisions.

    Like

    • 79Dawg

      A good comment . The fear and panic, and lack of perspective, have officially become more of an impediment to daily life, than the disease itself. Thanks MSM and pols!

      Like

    • Oh I’m certain that if I get it, it’s gonna be when the significant others kid is back in school, or she gets it from other friends hanging out I’ve thought that for 5 months now.

      Like

    • W Cobb Dawg

      “Also the first relatively effective vaccine will be a golden goose for some pharmaceutical company.”

      Ya know, I understand China has as many vaccines in Phase 3 testing as the rest of the world… combined. Plus, they are on record as saying they’d freely share their vaccine(s) with other nations. Now THAT would have heads at Big Pharm exploding.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Freely share” or “Happily sell”? Nothing is ever free.
        U.S. pharma research is top of the line and I’ll be very surprised if they don’t already have something in the works. Patenting will be the first hurdle. FDA approval will be the next.

        Like

  5. JC

    With regards, to the last bit of the quote expressing concern about bringing in students from around the world, I would say unless they are Brazilian, Indian or Russian, their less likely to be risk than the local population. I’d worry more about students from the state of Florida than Taiwan.

    Like

    • Ricky McDurden

      The real concern for International Students right now is that they may end up stuck between a Presidential administration that wants to kick them out of the country if courses go online (which is patently absurd) and home countries that want nothing to do with anyone traveling in from the US right now. I’m less concerned with catching something from an International student (to your point, my domestic students pose as much if not more of a risk at the moment) and more concerned for their well-being as they have to decide whether or not to put themselves at risk of not only getting infected in a foreign country to further their education but, too, of potentially landing in legal trouble if their school decides it needs to go all online.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. ASEF

    We’ve made this so much harder than it had to be.

    Europe is playing soccer, and life is pretty much back to normal with very low virus numbers.

    We’ve got states with higher numbers of new cases daily than an entire freaking continent. Along with people who still refuse to wear masks and blame the media and think the best way to deal with a virus is call it a name.

    Yeah, I’m salty this morning. They have their football back. Ours is hanging by a thread.

    Liked by 1 person

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Agreed. Many a commentator here will quickly point out all the shortcomings of the science community leading up to, and during, the pandemic. Yet they take for granted that same science community is going to develop a vaccine in record time. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

      If people would just wear the fricken mask!

      Like

      • WCD, like you and I were saying above, the science community ain’t doing it in record time ’cause they care about saving the planet. it’s about being first to get a product out for consumption. I’m guessing they would go to patent with a 75% success rate and a nod from the FDA towards approval. Touting a 75% reduction in cases and an easy way out for John Q. Public? That’s money bay-bee.

        Like

  7. Normaltown Mike

    Is your headline a play on this?

    Like

    • Mike, if that horrible piece of 80’s cheese gets stuck in anyone’s head …..

      Like

      • Normaltown Mike

        Oh no GC, that opinion is wrong.

        This is one of the best uses of an oboe in all of rock history. Only?

        Like

        • That you used “Oboe” and “Rock” in the same sentence merely reinforces my argument.
          It’s like Marshall Tucker Band’s flute player. Everyone knows it was Toy’s little brother and their Mother made them let him play.

          Like

          • Normaltown Mike

            all true. I have a great story about Marshall Tucker Band tho,

            went to a MTB show in the early 2K’s at the 40 Watt and it was fun, tho they were past their prime. When they finished the set, my buddies gf (now wife) was down front and one of the guys in the band was packing his gear up. The set list falls to the ground and she sees they didn’t play everything so she says “hey, y’all didn’t finish the set” . The guy balls up the piece of paper and throws it in her face then walks off stage.

            Like

            • Russ

              “Marshall Tucker Band” and “40 Watt Club” just don’t compute. Like trying to stick a DVD into a VCR.

              Like

    • “Yes,” he reluctantly confessed.

      Like

  8. Corch Irvin Meyers, New USC Corch (2021)

    The end of Athens as we know it makes me sad in ways I didn’t think possible. I always figured Downtown Athens would be a constant in my life, and that when I retired I would buy a place in Five Points and walk every day down Lumpkin and make me way into Downtown, maybe stopping by The Grill or Home.Made for breakfast. Then heading to Wuxtry. Then sitting in Jittery Joes reading a book. Then walking back up Lumpkin, maybe stopping by Cali-N-Titos for a late lunch.

    If we allow cases of a virus that has a 99.99% survival rate for those whom the vast majority of new cases are affecting, most of whom are asymptomatic, to permanently ruin our college towns, well, just call off the human race, because we’ve officially lost our damn minds.

    Like

    • going back to the eighties when Georgia decided to super size the corporations arrival was inevitable.

      Like

    • This town was headed that way long before the virus. Normaltown is much more what you yearn for than downtown. I really worry for Mini and home.made, that place has no room for outside. The Resort just finished their patio and that should help.

      Like