Tuesday, September 1, 2020   
MSU's latest Fulbright finalist plans to teach English in Germany
When political science graduate Semaj C. Martin-Redd learned he had become Mississippi State University's latest Fulbright finalist, he was beyond excited to see the intense application process had paid off. "I felt great," Martin-Redd said. "Within an hour of each other, I found out that I got a full-time job with Congressman Trent Kelly and the Fulbright, so you know it was a really good day." Martin-Redd is set to begin his Fulbright program in Hamburg, Germany in January 2021. He is currently residing in Washington, D.C., working as a staff writer for Mississippi Congressman Kelly. The decision to go to Germany was a relatively simple one for Martin-Redd, considering he has been studying German since high school. In Hamburg, Martin-Redd will be teaching English to young students. Martin-Redd's plans may be put on hold, however, depending on the development of travel restrictions due to COVID-19. He says he would not be too disappointed if that was the case, because he is currently living out a lifelong dream -- working in Congress. Martin-Redd first learned of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Program through the Shackouls Honors College's Office of Prestigious External Scholarships. David Hoffman, interim director of the office, mentored Martin-Redd throughout the application process.
Water main break moves 22 MSU students to hotels
A water main break in a Mississippi State University residence hall on Friday temporarily moved 22 students to hotels in Starkville. A pipe in Oak Hall broke around 8 p.m. Friday and forced the building to close overnight for repairs, MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said. Students were moved to the Hilton Garden Inn and LaQuinta Inn and Suites, both on Highway 12 north of campus. Repairing the pipes shut off the water for the entirety of Oak Hall, disabling the fire suppression system and requiring students to evacuate, Salter said. Oak Hall reopened Saturday with the exceptions of 14 damaged rooms, and the 22 students in those rooms are still in the hotels, with no predicted return date as of Sunday, Salter said.
Mayor welcomes students, cautions against invincibility mindset
"Starkville wouldn't be Starkville without the kids. I love having them in town. This is just a time when we want you to be a little more cautious," Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill said of the return of Mississippi State University students to campus. Spruill said the return of students poses a unique challenge to the city of Starkville, as the mindset of young people can incline them to be less cautious. "The kids have a sense of invincibility. That's why kids do what kids do- which is take chances, drive too fast, which I remember doing, and did and in some cases still do," Spruill said. The city is increasing certain safety measures to account for the beginning of classes but Spruill implored students to lay aside certain behaviors for a brief time out of respect for the lives of those around them. Spruill said she was very pleased with the measures the university has taken to prevent the spread, but spoke of the increased difficulty in regulating a whole city vs. a controlled community of students and faculty.
Governor extends statewide masking order
Mississippians must mask up for at least two more weeks as COVID-19 cases decline, but officials remain cautious about the coming holiday weekend. Gov. Tate Reeves on Monday extended a statewide masking order an additional two weeks while somewhat loosening restrictions on attendance at high school athletic events. The total number of reported COVID-19 cases in the state has been declining following a steep increase in confirmed cases in July, but state officials warned that the coming Labor Day holiday weekend calls for caution. "The next 10 days is critical," Reeves said during a press briefing Monday. "That is why we have extended the order." Reeves and State Epidemiologist Paul Byers warned against large social gatherings and other behaviors that could transmit COVID-19. Byers said that COVID-19 numbers are "trending down" but may now be "starting to level off." This could prime the state for a resurgence of cases if large swathes of the state abandoned social distancing, masking and other related practices.
Gov. Tate Reeves extends mask mandate for 2 more weeks: 'The next 10 days are critical'
Gov. Tate Reeves announced Monday that he is extending his mask mandate for two more weeks, warning that Mississippi is a pivotal moment in the coronavirus pandemic. "We can really drive our daily case numbers down," Reeves said. "... It is only possible if we are exceptionally aware going into Labor Day weekend." Previous holidays, such as the Fourth of July and Memorial Day, have led to bumps in the number of coronavirus cases in Mississippi, Reeves said. It's important to avoid a similar spike by wearing masks, staying socially distant and avoiding large gatherings, Reeves said, noting that coronavirus cases in Mississippi have been trending down. "Please continue to make the effort," Reeves said. "I've said it a hundred times before, and I'm sure I'll say it a hundred times again, but in this crisis none of us has been perfect, including myself."
Mississippi extends mask mandate, other limits, by 2 weeks
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he is extending a statewide mask mandate and most other restrictions another two weeks to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. He made a single change -- eliminating a cap of two spectators per participant at high school sports events. Reeves said a limit of 25% capacity remains in place for stadiums, gyms, and other venues, and people should maintain social distance from those who are not in their immediate families. As the University of Southern Mississippi prepares to host its first home football game on Thursday, Reeves said his prohibition on tailgating at college games also remains in place at least two more weeks. Both Reeves and the state epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, urged Mississippi residents to continue to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19 during the Labor Day weekend.
Stadium capacity at school functions upped to 25 percent
Gov. Tate Reeves announced on August 31 that he was increasing stadium capacity to 25 percent, in events where social distancing can be practiced. He signed the executive order, due in part, to the fact that COVID-19 numbers are dropping across the state. "I signed the previous order a few weeks ago and it is working," he said. "I'm encouraged by the efforts of the people of our great state." Previously, the governor signed an executive order limiting attendance at school sporting events and extracurricular activities to two persons per participant in the sport or event. A total of 274 new cases of coronavirus were reported Monday, including 32 new deaths. Those numbers include 19 deaths that were determined through the review of vital records, and occurred between July 8 and August 24. Health officials say numbers are beginning to level off. However, with Labor Day around the corner, Reeves urged residents to continue to practice social distancing and wear masks to limit exposure to the virus.
Gov. Tate Reeves extends mask mandate despite going maskless at last week's RNC events
Gov. Tate Reeves, who was photographed last week without a mask at Republican events in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina, announced on Monday he was extending for the statewide mask mandate for two more weeks. Reeves was photographed not socially distancing and not wearing a mask at events last week in North Carolina, where the Republican National Convention was hosted, and at the White House, where Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination for president. "As I said repeatedly, many of us throughout this pandemic have not always worn a mask 100% of the time," Reeves said on Monday, adding "the vast majority of the time" at those events he was wearing a mask. "... I didn't do it 100% of time. And looking back on it, perhaps I should have done it more often." Reeves, giving his first update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississippi since Aug. 25, extended the statewide mask mandate he first imposed in early August. He also extended all other executive orders except for the crowd limits on high school sports and other extracurricular activities.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann calls on Mississippians to 'love your neighbor' by wearing a mask
A COVID-19 survivor, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann is urging the public to continue to take precautions against the dangerous virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 181,000 Americans. Hosemann taped the video at Mississippi Public Broadcasting at the urging of a national anti-virus volunteer group, NOCOVID. The non-profit group aims to recruit celebrities and other "influencers" to make similar videos and share them with their social media followers. In his video, Hosemann urges Mississippians to "love your neighbor" by wearing a mask, frequent hand-washing and keeping social distance.
Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture & Commerce Andy Gipson Endorses Bricklee Miller for Senate in District 15
Commissioner Andy Gipson announced his full support and endorsement of Bricklee Miller in the September 22nd Special Election for State Senate on Monday. The election is being held in Senate District 15 to fill the vacancy from Sen. Gary Jackson's resignation earlier this year. "Bricklee Miller has always been a strong advocate for agriculture -- our state's largest industry -- and also for tourism and economic development. Under her leadership as Director of the Mississippi Horse Park, it has become a nationally recognized and award-winning facility. She has the skills to be a very effective state senator, and I'm proud to support her," said Commissioner Andy Gipson. "I am honored to have the support of Commissioner Gipson, a true friend of Mississippi agriculture. His leadership in state government is something to be admired," said Bricklee Miller, "and to have the backing of our top state agriculture official is humbling. I'm out knocking doors and working hard to earn votes every day so I don't let him down."
Scott Walker is flipping Ocean Springs homes but defaulted on debt to taxpayers
Ocean Springs businessman and convicted felon Scott Walker has defaulted on restitution payments for defrauding the government even though he has been buying and selling real estate since his release from prison in early 2016, county property and tax records show. The U.S. Attorney's Office wants to examine Scott Walker's financial records, along with those of his father, Bill Walker, former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. The father and son pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiring to defraud the government while Bill Walker headed DMR. Bill Walker is in trouble over failing to pay court-ordered restitution of $5,000 a month, while Scott Walker is no longer under the court's supervision. But Scott Walker still has an agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office to pay restitution for his crimes. While his father and mother live on a comfortable retirement income, Scott Walker has formed two real estate management companies. He and his wife, Trinity Walker, formed Walker and Walker Management Group LLC three days after he was released from home confinement in early 2016, state records show. Their real estate company has since June 2017 bought five fixer-uppers and resold for of them, county property records show.
Mississippi governor: No plan for pardon in life sentence for pot
Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he's not currently thinking about pardoning a woman who is serving a life sentence after she was caught with marijuana during a traffic stop and was sentenced as a habitual offender because of previous convictions. Tameka Drummer, now 46, received a life sentence in 2008 after she was pulled over for an expired license plate in northern Mississippi's Alcorn County and officers found a small amount of marijuana in her car. Drummer was sentenced as a habitual offender because of previous convictions. A petition posted in mid-August to change.org asks Reeves to release Drummer. Nearly 40,000 people had signed it by Monday. The libertarian Mississippi Center for Public Policy wrote last week about the state's habitual-offender laws that keep people such imprisoned for years, and it cited Drummer's life sentence as an example of a harsh sentence.
'By God, Mississippi is a battleground state': Stacey Abrams handicaps 2020 Senate race
By the time Stacey Abrams endorsed Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy on a virtual fundraising call in late May, her voting rights organization Fair Fight already had full-time staffers in the state for several months. Abrams, the Mississippi native who became one of the most recognizable Black women in American politics after her narrow defeat in the 2018 Georgia governor's race, explained why she thought Mississippi and Espy's candidacy was worth her organization's efforts. "It was my decision, the decision of our team, that we were going to be in battleground states," Abrams said on the May 29 call, a recording of which was obtained by Mississippi Today. "And by God, Mississippi is a battleground state. Because if we can win the Senate in Mississippi, we change the narrative of what is possible. But more importantly, we start to push back on the heart of voter suppression, a state where too much work has to be done to cast a ballot." Abrams, breaking down the 2020 Senate race on the call, praised Espy, who's trying to unseat Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in November.
President Trump will visit Kenosha today over objections of Democratic governor, mayor
President Donald Trump will visit Kenosha Tuesday over the objections of the city's mayor and Wisconsin's governor, nine days after the police shooting of Jacob Blake spurred violent clashes with law enforcement, the destruction of dozens of businesses and the death of two protesters. Trump will tour the city after declining to condemn one of his supporters, 17-year-old Antioch native Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with murder after prosecutors said he shot three protesters during demonstrations last week. The Tuesday trip by the reelection-seeking Republican president comes after Gov. Tony Evers and Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian, both Democrats, requested Trump not make the trip. The Wisconsin leaders expressed concern that the president's visit would lead to further division in the city of 100,000 located along Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee. The president is expected to tour damaged areas and meet with business owners and law enforcement in Kenosha, though the White House has yet to release details of the visit.
A Zoom Thanksgiving? Summer could give way to a bleaker fall
As the Summer of COVID draws to a close, many experts fear an even bleaker fall and suggest that American families should start planning for Thanksgiving by Zoom. Because of the many uncertainties, public health scientists say it's easier to forecast the weather on Thanksgiving Day than to predict how the U.S. coronavirus crisis will play out this autumn. But school reopenings, holiday travel and more indoor activity because of colder weather could all separately increase transmission of the virus and combine in ways that could multiply the threat, they say. Here's one way it could go: As more schools open for in-person instruction and more college students return to campuses, small clusters of cases could widen into outbreaks in late September. Public fatigue over mask rules and other restrictions could stymie efforts to slow these infections. A few weeks later, widening outbreaks could start to strain hospitals. If a bad flu season peaks in October, as happened in 2009, the pressure on the health care system could result in higher daily death tolls from the coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that scenario is his biggest fear. Fall may feel like a roller coaster of stop-and-start restrictions, as communities react to climbing hospital cases, said University of Texas disease modeler Lauren Ancel Meyers. Everyone should get a flu shot, she said, because if flu spreads widely, hospitals will begin to buckle and "that will compound the threat of COVID."
433 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to Ole Miss
As of Monday, 433 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported at the University of Mississippi. There are currently 288 active cases, with 277 being students, 10 being staff, and one being faculty. A total of 22 people are in isolation and 58 are in quarantine. On Saturday, Aug. 29, 12 students reported having COVID-19 and seven students reported positive results on Sunday. To stay updated on the latest confirmed COVID-19 cases and other related information at the University of Mississippi, visit https://coronavirus.olemiss.edu/confirmed-cases-reported-to-um/.
USM COVID-19 update: 16 more cases reported for Aug. 24-28, bringing total to 25
The University of Southern Mississippi has updated its coronavirus test results processed by the Moffitt Health Center for the week of Aug. 24-28. According to USM, 16 more students have tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 25 reported cases since the start of the fall semester. Since Aug. 8 the Moffitt Health Center has processed 252 tests. About 2,900 of the 14,000 students enrolled at the university live on campus. USM recently announced the Moffitt Health Center acquired a rapid testing device to process test results within 15 minutes. The school has two methods of processing tests through resources available at the university. The health center can process tests through the university's Accelerator lab which produces results within 24 hours.
Jackson State earns NSCS Diamond Star Award; first HBCU to do so
The Jackson State University chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) has made history after recently earning this year's Diamond Star Award -- being the first HBCU chapter to ever be awarded the distinction. Every year, the NSCS awards one university for embodying the society's pillars of scholarship, leadership, and service. According to NSCS Executive Director Scott Mobley, Jackson State is always "one of the best among NSCS chapters nationwide." Furthermore, Mobley said that Jackson State chapter members went "above and beyond with implementing engaging, student-centered events on their campus and in their local community, including a new member induction ceremony, Integrity Week, and PACE (Planning to Achieve Collegiate Success)." The JSU chapter also won multiple awards at the Star Status Merit Award competition, earning first place in the following categories: Community Service, Integrity Week, New Member Recruitment, and PACE.
COVID-19 gives Auburn RAs a new level of responsibility
Resident assistants at Auburn have the responsibility of making sure students living in their residence halls are safe and following the rules put out by the University. This year, however, they have the responsibility of not only keeping them safe, but also keeping them healthy. When it comes to living on campus, many things have been different this year; one of them being move-in day. This year, students living on-campus had a two-week period to move in, instead of one day like in the past. There have been more adjustments to on-campus living than just move-in day, however. Now, living in the residence halls requires social distancing and face masks at all times when outside of personal living spaces. Contactless hall activities are free of any food items and there is a campus-wide restriction of visitors to anyone living off-campus, excluding sorority chapter meetings.
LSU coronavirus cases see a big increase in the past week; 10 are in quarantine, school says
The number of coronavirus cases at LSU surged Monday to 229, a sharp jump over the last five days as the state's flagship university marches ahead with its in-person fall semester. The university reported 47 coronavirus cases from August 15 until the first day of classes on August 24. From the 25th-30th, it added 182 more new cases. And those new cases come even as testing was offline at many of the school's testing sites because of hurricanes last week, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said. Ballard said 13 students are in isolation after testing positive and 10 are in quarantine, after coming into close contract with someone who tested positive. Close contact is defined as spending 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who tested positive. Those students are the ones who are on campus and don't have another place to go to isolate or quarantine, Ballard said.
U. of South Carolina Cracks Down on Greek Houses for Virus Violations
The University of South Carolina took disciplinary action on Monday against more than a dozen students and several Greek life organizations that administrators said recently hosted parties or large gatherings, as the number of cases of the coronavirus on campus rises. The university announced that 15 students had been placed under interim suspension and that six Greek houses had been charged with student conduct violations stemming from the parties, which officials said violated emergency orders in Columbia, S.C. Administrators did not release the names of the students. They also did not say which fraternities or sororities had been reprimanded. Bob Caslen, the university's president, admonished the actions of the students in a message to the university's faculty and staff that will be sent out Tuesday morning. Part of the message was provided to The New York Times. The university, the largest in South Carolina, joins a growing list of higher learning institutions that have been troubled by clusters of new virus cases during the first few weeks that students returned to campus.
Two new COVID-19 clusters identified at UT Knoxville sororities
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has reported two additional COVID-19 clusters at sorority houses. The Delta Delta Delta and Alpha Delta Pi sororities are both now considered clusters by the university. The university defines a cluster as at least five positive COVID-19 cases or 20 close contacts stemming from the same event or location. In total, there have been four clusters identified. Last week, the Zeta Tau Alpha house was identified as a cluster after two residents of the house tested positive for COVID-19. Because of how the house is set up, with shared bathrooms and living spaces, all of the residents of the house are considered close contacts, Chancellor Donde Plowman said. The first cluster stemmed from a party thrown at a house on Laurel Avenue. There are 210 active cases of COVID-19 and 983 people in self-isolation at UT Knoxville, as of Monday.
U. of Florida opens with quiet first day
The much-anticipated first day of class at the University of Florida didn't look or feel like the usual kickoff to an academic year. The heart of campus was a ghost town from mid- to late morning on Monday, lacking the usual, bustling, first-day energy and swarm of students. Campus felt, as some students put it, "dead." "It feels so different this year, especially compared to last year," said senior biology student Andrew Mendoza, waiting out the morning rain shower at Turlington Plaza. Turlington, dubbed the "Times Square of Florida" by students for its usual high-volume foot traffic, was quiet and nearly empty on the first day. The Reitz Union was also vacant, minus the occasional sidewalk jogger and RTS bus. Monday marked the first time many students have returned to UF, which drew more than 54,000 students last year, since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person instruction through spring and summer.
UF researchers thrive despite the pandemic
During an otherwise challenging time, the University of Florida managed to earn a record $900.7 million in research funding in the 2020 fiscal year. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, UF Research worried rewards would fall off, said Joseph Kays, director of communications for UF Research. However, faculty submitted 5,688 research proposals, 559 more than in 2019, which contributed to the record-breaking number, he added. Kays said the federal government is the university's biggest funding source because universities do a large portion of the basic research in the U.S., which especially applies to fields like physics, chemistry and astronomy. This year, a record amount came from federal research awards, more than two thirds of the total, Kays said. The remaining awards came from private foundations and non-profits such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; companies like Boeing, Microsoft and L3 Harris that support applied research projects related to their own fields; state and local governments; and from "other," which can include gifts for research, internal funding and other small categories, Kays said.
The Pandemic Isn't the Only Problem Facing Mizzou's Chief
This fall, Mun Choi faces the enormous task of steering a large university through a pandemic, while also trying to secure buy-in from people who don't fully trust his leadership. Choi has been president of the University of Missouri system for the past three and a half years, and recently added the title of chancellor at the system's Columbia flagship campus. His dual titles prompted criticism from professors and others that he was consolidating power. Choi denied that: "I don't look at it as gathering more power, but more responsibility" to make all of the system's campuses better, he said. That wasn't the only reason Choi came under fire this summer. In June he decided that he would not remove a statue of Thomas Jefferson on the campus, despite demands from some students and professors to do so because of Jefferson's ties to slavery. In July, Choi and Mizzou's provost suddenly dismissed the dean of the College of Education, citing "management issues" and a "cultural divide." Choi then sparred with faculty members over the dean's removal and demanded that senior administrators back his decisions, comments that many interpreted as an attempt to silence dissent.
U. of Missouri student cases grow as local COVID surge continues
The University of Missouri reported another 173 COVID-19 infections among students and began reporting recent cases among staff and faculty on Monday. The updated figures, with 549 total cases, represent a 46 percent increase in student cases since the last update on Friday. The additional cases came after Boone County recorded its three worst days for new coronavirus infections, with a record 131 cases on Saturday, followed by 82 on Sunday and 85 more on Monday. During August, 888 of Boone County's 1,440 new COVID-19 cases were among people under 25. MU, which had been planning weekly updates of its COVID dashboard, will now update it daily, spokesman Christian Basi wrote in an email. There have been 22 cases among university staff and four among faculty. Of those numbers, 18 staff cases and two faculty cases were active as of Monday. Monday's student total includes 415 active cases and 134 who have recovered. University officials were looking for ways to improve the dashboard, Basi said.
APLU Hosts Virtual 130th Anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1890
Over 600 higher education leaders and policymakers virtually attended an Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) webinar to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1890. In 1862, the Morrill Act was passed, which granted each state proceeds from the sale of public land to establish colleges that were designed to teach agriculture, military tactics, mechanical arts and classical studies. However, due to segregation, Black Americans were restricted in southern and border states from attending those institutions. Therefore, in 1890, a second Morrill Act was established to allow for the creation of one Black and one White institution within those states, according to APLU. The two-hour webinar included panel discussions featuring presidents of 1890 land-grant universities and business leaders within the public and private sector.
Mayors Of College Towns Brace For The Economic Impact Of Remote Learning
Across the country, colleges and universities are struggling to decide how to teach students in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some schools have turned to remote learning; some have attempted to reopen campus with various precautions in place. Others are trying a mix of both. For the municipalities that are host to colleges and universities, these decisions can be costly. Whether it's curtailing the spread of the virus in their communities, or losing the typical influx of student spending that arrives each fall, these cities and towns are bracing for a challenge. "The rise we've seen in recent days is unacceptable, and if unchecked, threatens our ability to complete the rest of the semester on campus," University of Alabama president Stuart Bell said at a press conference this past week. "Now is the time for action." Whatever steps the university takes could take a heavy toll on the economic reality of Tuscaloosa. Mayor Walt Maddox told NPR's Weekend Edition that losing an entire semester of school would be "economically disastrous for our community."
Summer Enrollment Numbers Are In, and the Patterns Are Confounding
Many close observers of the fiscal health of higher education in the Covid-19 era have been focused on colleges' fall enrollments. And while initial signals about the fall have been emerging, newly released figures on summer enrollments offer insights on changes that are already happening. Some of what the numbers say is surprising. A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center on enrollment in the summer of 2020 reveals that attendance by students in certain demographic groups and at certain types of institutions was down from the previous summer. The organization's data counts 7 million students enrolled in summer sessions at 2,300 colleges. Enrollments among Black students and male students saw the largest declines. And of the four institution types highlighted in the report -- community colleges, and four-year public, private, and for-profit institutions -- community colleges and for-profit colleges suffered the most. As a tattered economy and a pandemic play out simultaneously, some of the enrollment patterns were unexpected, said Doug Shapiro, the center's executive director. For instance, community-college enrollment, according to the data, fell nearly 6 percent from the summer of 2019.
Summer enrollments declined sharply among Black undergraduates and at community colleges
As some experts feared, the biggest college enrollment declines this summer were among vulnerable student populations, potentially widening equity gaps in college access for Black students, students who attend community colleges and for-profits, and men. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center today released its latest report on U.S. college enrollments, finding steep declines this summer among those and other groups of students. The findings are a stark contrast to countercyclical enrollment gains of previous recessions, as the pandemic continues to defy precedent. The overall enrollment picture was more mixed, as largely flat undergraduate enrollment (down 0.9 percent compared to last summer) was offset by a spike in graduate enrollments (up 3.8 percent). The result was a 0.2 percent increase in total enrollment, up from a 0.4 percent decrease last summer. Yet big decreases in associate degree program enrollments (5 percent) raise the stakes for the community college sector, which appears to be struggling with further drops for the fall term, while awaiting potentially severe cuts to state and local government funding. Rural four-year institutions also saw big enrollment declines.
College students brace for the 'second curve' of COVID-19 -- its mental health impact
After five months of being home, Danielle Cahue was looking forward to returning to campus --- that is, until she got there. When the 19-year-old sophomore arrived at Illinois State University, she saw her peers gathering in large groups without masks, disregarding the university's COVID-19 guidelines. There have been more than 400 positive cases of COVID-19 at Illinois State as of Friday. The pandemic has stressed her mental health, especially when she sees her classmates acting carelessly about safety and social distancing, Cahue said. She tries to leave her on-campus apartment as little as possible, even delaying buying groceries until she has almost no food left. "This is the most anxious I've ever been, I think, in my entire life," Cahue told NBC News. "It has made it a lot worse and made me kind of worried just to do anything." "Many experts believe there's going to be a second curve, which is the mental health impact of COVID," said Alison Malmon, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization Active Minds, a group geared toward bringing mental health awareness and education to young adults. "And schools have a responsibility to be responsive to their students' mental health."
Due to pandemic, more than 13 million college students are worried about their financial future: study
With millions of Americans unemployed, rising college seniors face the worst job market in modern history while racking up more student debt than ever before. Two-thirds of college students -- roughly 13.3 million undergraduates -- said the coronavirus crisis has changed how they feel about their financial future, according to WalletHub's recent 2020 College Student Financial survey. "Students aren't getting the same bang for their -- or their parents' -- buck on tuition right now, and nearly 7 in 10 students believe the pandemic will make it harder for them to get a job," said Jill Gonzalez, an analyst at the personal finance site. Even before the pandemic, young adults were increasingly dependent on their parents. About 6 in 10 parents with children between the ages of 18 and 29 said they have given their kids at least some financial help in the past year -- primarily for recurring expenses such as tuition, rent, groceries or bills, according to the Pew Research Center.
With Virtual Rush, Fraternities And Sororities Race To Pitch More Than Parties
Freshman Taylor Vibbert has always wanted to be in a sorority. When she signed up to rush this fall at Western Kentucky University, she was looking forward to the fanfair, house tours and meet-and-greets. Then she got some bad news: Greek recruitment would be mostly virtual this year. "That was a bummer," the 18-year-old from Louisville, Ky., said in early August. "Honestly, if I would have known, I probably wouldn't have signed up." Vibbert was concerned she would be more outgoing in-person than over the computer, but she was willing to see how it goes. That willingness is something Greek organizations across the country are banking on this fall. According to the latest numbers, more than 600,000 American college students are active members of fraternities or sororities, and those organizations rely heavily on member dues. But the pandemic has forced many chapters -- some over a century old -- to move the bulk of their recruitment online, and to reconsider their pitch to students now that social activities are less of an option.
Liberty announces investigation into Jerry Falwell Jr.'s tenure
Liberty University is opening an independent investigation into Jerry Falwell Jr.'s tenure as president, a wide-ranging inquiry that will include financial, real estate and legal matters, the evangelical school's board announced Monday. In a statement, the board said it had retained an outside firm to investigate "all facets" of the school's operations under Falwell, and that it was "committed to learning the consequences that have flowed from a lack of spiritual stewardship by our former president." Calls for such an investigation had been mounting since Falwell's departure last week from the post he had held since 2007. Falwell took over as the president of Liberty after the death of his famous evangelist father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. He oversaw a period of expansive growth and transformation: Liberty's online program exploded, as did its endowment, the campus underwent a massive transformation and the athletics programs improved. Falwell also stayed in the news for a series of divisive remarks as well as his vocal support of President Donald Trump, and was the subject of news stories that focused on his business dealings.
For-profits see a lot riding on the elections
If Scott Gunderson didn't know what awaits for-profit colleges should Democrats capture the White House, he thought it became clear when he heard vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris at the Democratic National Convention lump the colleges he represents with rapists and the mob. "I've fought for children and survivors of sexual assault. I've fought against transnational criminal organizations. I took on the biggest banks," Harris said, "and helped take down one of the biggest for-profit colleges."I know a predator when I see one," Harris said. "It's alarming. Concerning," Gunderson said of the prospect of Democratic nominee Joe Biden taking office, or if Democrats capture the three seats they need to control the Senate should Democrats win the White House, allowing Harris to break any tie. "The future of the sector is at stake if there's a totally Democratic government," said Gunderson, a former Republican congressman who is now president and CEO of the industry group for the for-profits, Career Education Colleges and Universities. Those on both sides of the debate say a Biden administration would restore a number of regulations on for-profit colleges passed by the Obama administration and repealed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos under the Trump administration.
Empty US college campuses are making it harder for students to vote
With less than three months until the presidential election, college campuses across the country should be buzzing with efforts to get out the vote. But, 2020 is no ordinary election year. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many universities to shut their campuses down, and students are experiencing growing voter suppression efforts. Now, in addition to mastering remote learning, students are trying to figure out how to make their ballot count this fall. Some will have to reregister to vote from their home towns, while others will have to vote by mail. Even without a global pandemic, voting as a college student can be tough. After student activists fought to get the voting age lowered to 18 in 1971, almost half of all eligible voters participated in the 1972 election, then participation steadily dropped. Part of this decline can be attributed to students facing confusing voter ID laws, residency requirements and a dearth of polling places on campus.

'Full circle': How a Mississippi State football coach came 'home' and cooked through COVID-19 quarantine
Inside the Phelps' family house hangs a sign that says, "Home is wherever FOOTBALL takes us." Descending like a ladder in chronological order are the names of the seven schools where Jeff Phelps has coached. Ball State. DePauw. Hillsdale College. Northern Illinois. Minnesota. Washington State. None of those six, not even Phelps' alma mater Ball State, have felt more like home than lucky No. 7. Mississippi State. When Phelps packed the moving truck and trekked from Pullman, Washington, to Starkville this summer, it felt like deja vu. He made multiple lengthy drives from his native Chicago to the Magnolia State as a child. His mother grew up 30 minutes northeast of Starkville in West Point. Phelps remembers throwing a football around the yard with his uncles and cousins in West Point, too. Now, he throws a ball to his son Carsen so close to where he made all those memories decades ago. And when he has to go to work, he watches and coaches Mississippi State players making memories of their own in maroon and white. Phelps truly feels like he's home.
As some schools punt on football, others prepare for return of fans -- and tailgating
When the Football Bowl Subdivision kicks off its season on Thursday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves plans to be in Hattiesburg, Miss. -- watching Southern Miss face South Alabama from a seat in M.M. Roberts Stadium. There is little doubt in Reeves' mind that it is safe to play college football amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and little question about the sport's value to broader society. "It's critically important to the mental health and the psyche of all Mississippians, that we have college football," Reeves told USA TODAY Sports. Yet at Southern Miss, the return of college football is not happening in a vacuum. In Hattiesburg, and dozens of other college towns across the country, bringing back football will also mean bringing back thousands of fans to stadiums. As university leaders continue to grapple with the challenges of even playing a college football season, which two Power Five conferences have deemed unsafe, the majority of schools in the ACC, Big 12 and SEC are not just preparing to play -- they're also preparing to welcome limited-capacity crowds to their stadiums, in conjunction with carefully-crafted mask and social-distancing protocols.
Southern Miss football team marches as 'brotherhood' against racism
The University of Southern Mississippi football team skipped practice on Aug. 28 to march against racism and show support for players on the team who have experienced discrimination on a firsthand basis. "We have a lot of minorities on the team," said defensive lineman Tahg Sykes. "(The team) felt it was right to speak up and talk about the things that are going on in this world and what's bothering us with our own personal lives." Before the march, players and coaches met to allow everyone the opportunity to discuss how racism played a part in their daily lives. Some of the players talked about store managers accusing them of stealing, being called racial slurs and receiving unprovoked suspicion from the police. Head Coach Jay Hopson said team leaders told him their plans to skip practice that morning and that there was no hesitation among the coaching staff to support the players' decision. "I think (the march) is extremely important because the social injustice in America is heavy on our players' hearts," said Hopson.
Jackson State denies report Deion Sanders is football coach candidate
Jackson State athletics told the Clarion Ledger on Monday night a report claiming Deion Sanders is a candidate to become the school's next football coach is not true. Earlier Monday, a report by Football Scoop linked the Hall of Fame cornerback and television analyst to replace John Hendrick, who was dismissed. On the Dan Patrick Show during the Super Bowl, Sanders expressed strong interest in becoming a college football coach. He's currently the offensive coordinator for his son's high school team at Trinity (Texas) Christian. T.C. Taylor, one of two members of the Jackson State coaching staff retained Monday, is the early leading candidate to get the job, according to a source close to the situation. The source requested anonymity because Jackson State hasn't discussed the coaching search. The Tigers and the rest of the SWAC's 2020 season has been postponed to spring 2021 due to COVID-19.
Nick Saban leads Black Lives Matter march in Tuscaloosa
Alabama coach Nick Saban led a march Monday afternoon of hundreds of the university's athletes, coaches and staff that was organized to protest racial injustice in the country. Saban was at the front of a large crowd of players who walked from the Mal Moore athletic facility to Foster Auditorium's schoolhouse door. Senior running back Najee Harris walked next to Saban wearing a T-shirt reading, "Defend Black Lives; racial solidarity against this corrupt system." Other players walked behind Saban holding a banner reading, "Black Lives Matter." The march was also advertised on social media over the weekend by players with the hashtag #BLM. "Today I'm like a proud parent," Saban said at the end of the march. "I'm proud of our team, I'm proud of our messengers over here and I'm very proud of the message. I'm very proud of the 'All lives can't matter until Black lives matter' video that we did early on that I think had a very positive impact. That was something we did together as a team." Saban later spoke in front of the schoolhouse door, where Alabama governor George Wallace infamously resisted federal desegregation efforts in 1963.
Gamecocks' football players ditch team activities, march for Jacob Blake
This wasn't to add their voices to a movement. This was their own statement. South Carolina's football team walked as one on Monday to request change and understanding in the wake of another police shooting involving a Black man. The shooting of Jacob Blake by Wisconsin police triggered more protests and an NBA-led boycott of some professional sports. On Monday, it was the Gamecocks' turn to speak their minds. The team's leadership council approached coach Will Muschamp to request the demonstration and he enthusiastically agreed, canceling a scheduled weightlifting and film study session and loading his players on buses. They traveled to the Russell House University Union and spoke to a small crowd, a giant Gamecock painted on Greene Street mostly left untouched by their feet as they gathered around the podium. The team was clad in black shirts reading "Matter is the minimum," a slogan coined by redshirt junior quarterback Jay Urich. Urich printed it on a sign in early June when the team joined a large Black Lives Matter protest outside the Governor's mansion, and has used it to help his public-service initiative, Original Design.
Mizzou athletes plan social justice march for Wednesday night
Missouri student-athletes have organized a march for Wednesday night to bring further awareness to social justice issues, event organizers confirmed late Sunday. The march will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex to The Columns on Francis Quadrangle, with marchers encouraged to wear all black. The mission of the march is "to shine light on the social injustices in our society," according to an event flyer. The planning of the event has been spearheaded by football player Kobie Whiteside as well as track and field athletes Cason Suggs and Olivia Evans. Suggs is the president of Black Student Athlete Association; this will be the BSAA's first event of any kind. Other BSAA leaders include Missouri soccer player Keiarra Slack along with Tigers track and field athletes Arielle Mack and Atina Kamasi. Female Athlete Minorities at Mizzou, another newly formed organization, will also participate in the march.
For These Small Colleges, No Sports Could Mean Game Over
As administrators at Tabor College deliberated over plans for the fall semester, the question of whether it would compete in football and other fall sports proved difficult. "It's just a matter of, honestly, survival," said Rusty Allen, executive vice president for operations at the Mennonite college, in Hillsboro, Kan., which enrolls nearly 600 undergraduates. Campus officials wanted to keep students and employees safe from the coronavirus but also had to consider the financial impact of canceling athletic contests. "If we don't have sports, our enrollment is probably going to decrease by about 50 percent," Allen said. If athletics is the proverbial "front porch" at major NCAA programs, it's more like the foundation at places like Tabor, which competes in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. More than a third of the men enrolled there are members of the football team. That's among the highest such percentages in the country, according to figures compiled by Willis Jones, an associate professor of higher education at the University of South Florida. Without the lure of sports, many colleges fear that athletes among their applicants will choose a different college, one that continues to compete in sports or, perhaps, one that is less expensive, even though they would be denied varsity sports. "The financial pressure to continue football is the same as pressure to be in-person," said John J. Cheslock, an associate professor of education policy at Pennsylvania State University. "You're concerned about losing students if you don't offer it."

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