My shoes stick to the floor every step I take. It’s dark and I can barely see the ground, except for when random strobes of light flash to reveal my previously white shoe, now stained with splashes of vodka cranberry and warm Bud Light.

My friend pulls me by my 21+ wristband to the line for the bathroom. Amongst us, a sea of girls reapplying lip gloss in the mirror, some sipping water straight from the faucet to wash out any semblance of vomit breath, others fixing another’s hair and telling her she agrees, “Jake is a total douche.”

This is a normal Thursday night at any given downtown bar in any given college town. Degenerates are stumbling out into the streets. Somebody is getting arrested in an alley. Lines are out the door of late night downtown restaurants serving greasy delights. God, I miss it. 

Now, I sit in my downtown loft on a Friday night bingeing Hulu, Netflix and yes, even Disney+. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now more than a month into no bars. The only normal part of college we have left is academics.

Alexa, play, “When the Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish. 

Growing up, here’s what I knew: Get. Out. Of. Dodge. For whatever reason, my hometown was never in my thought process when it came to considering living my own adult life and where I would do so. I wanted something new and exciting, something bigger than where I was from. I wanted the cliche “college lifestyle” all the adults in our lives pushed us towards. 

Luckily, I found what I was looking for. I attended college in the third largest city in the state. This was a point of pride for a kid who had to drive over thirty miles to get to a mall growing up. And the mall was a big deal.

Needless to say, when deciding where you go to college, the town that college is located inside matters. 

This was something I picked up quickly while being a University Ambassador, aka campus tour guide. Parents ask about majors, scholarships and career resources. Potential students ask about food, dorms and when mom and dad aren’t listening, parties. 

It’s true that the social aspect of college life plays an essential role. In fact, a study conducted by the Neznik Behavioral Health Institute suggested that 27% of students simply went to college “to party” and that’s it. And, I think a lot of us can agree, we all came to college to meet the group of people who would become our forever friends and experience adult life and a sense of wild, unrestricted independence. 

In a world where higher education institutes thrive on “college town” environments, how do enrollment numbers continue to soar in the absence of a “college town” economy?

With estimates as high  as 20% of American restaurants closing for good amidst the pandemic, it’s likely that a statistical guess such as this could reflect for most small businesses as well, including bars and other local gathering spots for college crowds. 

Not only do bars, restaurants and coffee shops account for hang out spots and local economy boosters, it’s important to note many college students serve tables to survive while earning a degree. If we wake up in a world with 20% less job opportunities for college kids, what does that mean for lower and middle class students who can’t rely on others to pay their way for them? 

ESPN covered the multiple different ways coronavirus has affected NCAA sports, and how the revenue drop-off has been detrimental. For example, the NCAA itself is a billion dollar industry, with $824 million of revenue generated from March Madness marketing. This year, that event was canceled. #MarchSadness

Individual athletic programs bring in large cash flow to universities as well. Forbes published an article covering college football’s most profitable teams. Topping off the list were quintessential football schools including Texas A&M and Alabama, programs bringing in three year average revenue worth $147 million and $134 million, respectively. 2019 NCAA football champions, Clemson, rounded out the list with three year average revenue totaling $77 million. 

Can these schools ever financially recover if the 2020 football season is delayed or worse, canceled? Clemson’s Athletic Director, Dan Radakovich, sat down on the SportsTalk podcast. Appearing hopeful, and certain, for a regular start to kick offs across the country. 

Coronavirus is reshaping every aspect of life. The Week published a thought provoking piece bringing up major changes we may see in  higher education, including future consolidations, more localized student bodies and even shifts to completely online programs. 

The impact of the pandemic on higher education is significant and very real. It is likely we will see changes in the coming year that lead us to reevaluate the true value of a college education. 

Though we are seeing states move forward with plans to reopen economies, many institutions across the country have shut their campuses and transitioned to remote learning through the spring and summer semesters. According to the Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia Public Schools have yet to rule out online learning in the fall. 

With local school districts possibly remaining closed into the 2020-2021 school year, it’s possible  higher education will follow suit, leading to irreversible changes to the cliche “college lifestyle” forever.