Carnegie Library at Livingstone College. File photo from Wikimedia Commons

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting fall enrollment plans at colleges across the country. Livingstone College is hoping that a string of incentives will help increase its headcount of incoming freshmen choosing to stay close to home.

The historically Black college is doubling down on attracting students who live within 50 miles of its Salisbury campus by tacking on $1,000 to a $3,000 first-year incentive grant and waiving the requirement that freshmen must live on campus to qualify. 

School officials hope it will sway students who are considering delaying college due to the pandemic. Through the end of May, high school seniors’ completions of the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) nationwide were down 3.2% year-over-year, according to data from the National College Attainment Network. Many school officials use FAFSA completion as a key indicator of postsecondary enrollment.

“This pandemic has caused economic hardships on families, and students are considering not pursuing their educational plans due to financial and health reasons,” said Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins Sr. “As a local option for higher learning, we’re announcing incentives that could make the choice easier for students to not defer their undergraduate studies and consider staying close to home.”

Just over one-fifth of students have changed their first-choice school, citing cost of attendance and locations too far away from home as their top reasons, according to McKinsey & Company’s Covid-19 higher education enrollment survey conducted in late April. 

“We realize that local students prefer to attend college out of town – and we get that. But these are uncertain times where normal might not be ideal or even possible,” said Kimberly Harrington, Livingstone’s director of public relations.

College administrators are scrambling to find solutions to prevent enrollment declines and the accompanying financial shortfalls brought on by coronavirus-related restrictions. Livingstone recently ended an early-bird registration incentive where students who fully registered for courses, completed their FASFA and paid their room deposits received between $500 and $1,000.  

Classes at Livingstone are slated to begin Sept. 10. Under the school’s reopening plan, all freshmen and sophomores will return to campus in person. One section of each general education course will be offered virtually for students who cannot return to campus but opt to be enrolled as distance-learning education students.

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