May 12 roundup: Virtual commencements, financial woes and inspiring quotes

Thousands of graduates won’t get to walk the stage this month, but that won’t stop the celebrations.

To supplement official virtual events organized by universities and colleges, graduating students are organizing video-game commencement ceremonies, posing with cardboard cutouts of university chancellors and photoshopping formal photos. Over a thousand students have so far signed up to attend the "Quaranteen Commencement" taking place in the video game Minecraft May 22.

Companies are getting in on the act, too. YouTube is hosting a virtual commencement celebration June 6 with Barack and Michelle Obama, K-pop sensation BTS, Lady Gaga, and more. Not to be outdone, beer brand Natural Light is holding a worldwide commencement May 14.

This isn’t the graduation experience anybody expected. But let’s hope it’s a memorable one. Congratulations to the Class of 2020!

Now let’s get to the news.

Coronavirus testing may be picking up, but capacity remains inadequate to open large university and college campuses, says Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican. Alexander chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which plans to hold a hearing today on safely reopening schools and workplaces.

The financial impact of the pandemic on higher education institutions continues to grow. George Washington University announced projected losses of $100 million to $300 million over the upcoming fiscal year. Northwestern University said in a statement Monday it expected losses of roughly $90 million for the current fiscal year. Northwestern said it would temporarily increase the rate at which it draws from its $11.1 billion endowment and furlough 250 staff members.

In other financial news, an analysis by the Center for American Progress suggests that community colleges were shortchanged by the CARES Act, which distributed emergency stimulus funding to institutions based on the number of full-time students enrolled. While community colleges educate almost 40 percent of students, they received just 27 percent of CARES Act emergency stimulus funding because the formula did not adequately account for part-time students, said CAP.

Here’s a quick roundup of our latest stories, in case you’ve fallen a bit behind (we don’t blame you):

Colleen Flaherty looks into concerns about the use of “creepy AF” third-party proctoring services.

Despite controversy, AP testing will continue, but with some changes, writes Scott Jaschik.

Red tape and insufficient funding are holding up the process of getting emergency aid to students in need, writes Emma Whitford.

Kery Murakami reports on the colleges urging Congress to push states to avoid deep budget cuts for higher education.

News From Elsewhere

VTDigger dives into the technical difficulties facing Chinese students trying to study remotely at Vermont colleges.

The Hechinger Report shines a light on the plight of college towns struggling to stay afloat following higher ed shutdowns.

The New York Times shares letters from parents and professors in response to a divisive op-ed by Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, which said colleges must reopen in the fall.

And college admissions counselors urge college applicants to “embrace uncertainty” in a two-part series in Forbes.

Percolating Thoughts

Looking for some words of encouragement to share with a recent graduate? NPR in 2014‚Äč compiled a "best of" library of 354 commencement speeches that goes all the way back to 1774. The quote generator is fun -- and full of observations to inspire you.

Here are a few of our favorites:

“No eulogist at your funeral will say, ‘Too bad she never signed up for that yoga class.’ Or ‘A pity he never followed up on those Italian lessons.’” -- Billy Collins, Colorado College, 2008

“The future turns out to be something that you make instead of find. It isn’t waiting for your arrival, either with an arrest warrant or a band.” -- Lewis Lapham, St. John’s College, 2003

“People ask me, what keeps you going? I say, it’s the silver lining.” -- Wangari Maathai, Connecticut College, 2006

Have any percolating thoughts or notice any from others? Feel free to send them our way or comment below.

We’ll continue bringing you the news you need in this crazy time. Keep sending us your questions and story ideas. We’ll get through this together.

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