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Higher education in Wisconsin braces for economic impact of coronavirus

Posted at 7:51 PM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-24 20:56:20-05

MEQUON — The coronavirus is creating economic uncertainty in higher education, as administrators worry travel bans and delayed coursework might freeze enrollment and tuition.

On Monday, as stocks plummeted, about a dozen students and staff at Concordia University gathered to send messages of support to the students and staff at their partner school, Shanghai Normal University Tianhua College.

Shanghai is about nine hours from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus, but strict rules are still in place. Many people are not allowed to go to work or school.

Freja Lu Huang is from Shanghai and is getting her masters at Concordia. She understands the frustration back home.

"We want to go back to work, and we want to start our class, but we know what we do is to stay at home and help other people," Huang said.

According to a recent Open Doors report, Concordia comes fourth in the state for the highest number of international students, after Marquette University, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Administrators at Concordia say the majority of its international students come from their partnership in China.

Administrators say 85 students in Shanghai are set to spend their junior year at Concordia. Right now, they are taking classes online in Shanghai, but administrators worry that they won't prepare them adequately, and their time in Mequon could be delayed.

"Students haven't been able to get back into the classroom, they haven't been able to spend time with their teachers, and this is concerning because they are possibly going to fall behind in terms of the graduation dates, and terms of students who are completing their sophomore year prior to coming here to Concordia," said Concordia University Vice President of International Affairs Rev. Dr. David Birner.

Birner and his team are trying to come up with solutions so the students can stay on track.

"If they are unable to come because of either the current situation with the coronavirus or because the schedules have been pushed back for academic courses, that definitely will have a financial impact on the university," Birner said.

Concordia's website lists undergraduate tuition as $15,030 per semester and has a total student population of about 7,400.

Still, the Concordia community is staying positive by showing their students across the globe they're thinking of them.

"I think it shows tremendous support to our not just our cohorts in China, but for the whole China," said Concordia international students coordinator Charlotte Shih.

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