The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a major blow to many businesses of all kinds. But perhaps no group was more impacted than those located in college towns.
Many such businesses were kept alive (but barely) by community support. Returning studentsvital for their survival. It’s now fall of 2021, and students are returning to campus and in the process causing a much-needed boom for restaurants and other businesses in the area.
- There are rental trucks in the parking lots, crowds in campus stores as families stock up on needed supplies, joyful greetings as students reunite with old friends – it’s move-in time at colleges all over the country.
The Economic Impact of Colleges
Colleges and universities are an integral part of local economies. Some businesses receive as much as 80% or more of their revenue from college-related traffic. Local food, hospitality, and entertainment businesses rely on college students and have experienced significant revenue losses. These losses stem from cancellations of large events such as commencement, graduation ceremonies, and sports-related activities.
- Example: The region centered around the University of Notre Dame usually experiences a positive economic impact of around $181.8 million per season from home football games alone.
In Berkeley, businesses report a substantial increase in customers as students return. Concerts are attracting sold-out crowds, and sporting venues are booked for months ahead.
Junk hauling companies in Berkeley also will benefit from the 38,000+ returning students who produce an estimated 12,000lbs of waste each year!
The Mental Wellness of Returning Students
For many students, the return to in-person education means a very welcome change from eighteen months or so of remote learning. During this time, they had to combat a combination of social isolation and environmental challenges, not to mention Zoom fatigue. Remote learning has taken a toll on them both physically and psychologically. Students almost universally say they’ve missed in-person learning.
Many colleges have prepared for the return of students by strengthening their mental health services to assist those still processing the happenings since the beginning of the pandemic. They also offer assistance in navigating the transition back to in-person learning. Counselors aim to help students manage stress related to uncertainties about the pandemic and its possible future path.
Students are out and about again on the streets near campus greeting old friends and making new ones. Energy and vibrancy have returned to areas that have resembled ghost towns for the past year or more. Returning students cherish every moment after more than a year of not being able to socialize. They are also welcoming a return to traditional school activities and festivities such as orientations, homecomings, clubs, and study groups.
What Will Be the New Normal?
The uncertainties related to the pandemic are still with us. For example, the uptick in COVID-19 cases because of the Delta variant recently caused some colleges to change their policies.
If it becomes necessary to slide back into isolation and return to remote learning, there will be a huge impact on students, faculty, staff, and local businesses. Let us be optimistic and hope this does not happen.