The Higher Education Crisis Amid COVID-19
In March 2020, Beloit College, like thousands of other universities across the country, was forced to shut down its campus due to stay-at-home orders and make immediate pivots to online learning. The negative impact on learning and the economy due to COVID-19 caused widespread distress across the entire higher education sector.
Millions of college students struggled with the move to distant learning, with 81% of them feeling they couldn’t perform academically at the level they normally would on-campus. Instructors also were overwhelmed with teaching numerous courses online and finding ways to connect with students virtually. And due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, nearly 70% of parents became worried about paying for college.
Realizing that these challenges brought on by the pandemic would continue into the fall semester and beyond, Beloit College took immediate action and became the first institution nationwide to launch a groundbreaking plan to address the radical changes caused by COVID-19. The plan, called the Beloit Action Plan, included the following initiatives:
- Mods: A modular course structure that eliminates the pressure of managing four courses at a time by splitting up the semester into two Mods. Mods are designed to minimize disruption should a change between in-person and remote learning occur mid-semester.
- Midwest Flagship Match: Allows new students from six Midwestern states to enroll at Beloit without paying more than it would cost to attend their flagship state school. The states are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
- Advanced Mentoring Program. Provides a faculty advisor to students within 72 hours of the time they deposit and offers cohort-based mentoring that continues through the first two years.
- Career Channels: Helps students imagine what they are looking for in their careers at the same time they’re taking classes.
- Offering ninth and tenth semesters freeto students who enroll full-time during the 2020-21 school year.
Spreading the Word on Beloit Action Plan
As Beloit College’s strategic PR partner, Dittoe Public Relations was tasked with generating positive media coverage for the Beloit Action Plan. To accomplish this, the agency launched a media relations campaign to position the plan as a smart and pragmatic approach to delivering a vibrant college experience in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Dittoe PR engaged in personalized pitching efforts with key reporters across numerous verticals, including national, regional, and trade. Our efforts focused on pitching key aspects of the plan that we believed would be of greatest interest to each reporter based on their specific coverage beat.
National higher education reporters, for instance, were more interested in Mods, the new course structure designed to respond to evolving social and environmental factors caused by the pandemic. With personal finance and money reporters, Dittoe PR touted the Midwest Flagship Match program and tuition-free semesters initiative as efforts to make attending college more affordable.
Dittoe PR also connected with reporters at newspapers and TV stations across the state of Wisconsin, as well as higher education publications, to generate further awareness.