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Universities’ Biggest Challenge: A Post COVID-19 Financial Crisis

We are experiencing the aftershocks of a global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and only a few months after the COVID-19 outbreak, it seems like the world is taking back control.
While humanity is preparing to continue the fight against the infectious agent by working on producing vaccines and efficient medications for the new coronavirus, life is slowly regaining its normal track. People are returning to the streets and workplaces, universities are reopening their gates, public transportation is returning, as well as attempts to gradually reopen borders and skies. And yet, the COVID-19 crisis had unprecedented global economic implications. Repairing the damage will take time and will bring its challenges.

The biggest challenge for colleges and universities: How much will the COVID-19 cost?

The future of our society remains the young generation. And with a younger generation – education is key. Yet, as many colleges and universities across the US are preparing to open their gates this upcoming fall, the financial aftershock of the COVID-19 continues to affect the high-education sector. Issues like massive budget deficits, layoffs of faculty, significant salary cuts, furloughs, and halt of contribution to retirement are a major setback for the smooth running of schools as of next fall. In short, The new fiscal year started in August is off with a tremendous financial deficit.

For example, the shortfall of Johns Hopkins University alone is estimated at $375 million, on top of a budget gap of $100 million for the third trimester of the last fiscal year. Another harsh implication is that the ongoing crisis raises serious doubts regarding the ability of many students to enroll next fall. The drop in the number of attending students next year might lead to additional substantial financial deficits.

Other expenses might be on the rise as well. These higher costs are driven by new needs directly related to the ability of effectively and safely run the curricular activities under the restrictions dictated by the COVID-19 outbreak: a limited number of students in each classroom, sanitation of communal areas regularly – in which require additional workforce, improve implementation of new technologies to allow efficient remote teaching, and deal with students’ and staff’ health, stress, anxiety and sleep issues directly connected to the ongoing crisis. The recently enacted coronavirus spending law allocates only $14 billion aid for the US campuses, is likely to cause universities and colleges a lot of pressure, and raised questions regarding the ability to allow quality education and as normal as possible student life.

The highest price: the wellness of the students and staff

The Covid-19 has disrupted the lives of many students and campus staff, causing physical and mental burn-outs, which manifests in decreased physical activity, a rise in obesity problems, reports of increasing symptoms of anxiety and stress, and sleep problems.
An observational study indicates that the prevalence of sleep-related complaints of difficulties falling asleep or sleeping through the night and waking up not exhausted, increased by 6% in March-April 2020, compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

Research performed during the past two decades indicates that there is a bidirectional connection between mood and sleep deficiencies. Research also indicates that by improving sleep, performance improves as well, and the mood is positively influenced. Waking up refreshed represents a good start for the day. Students’ wellness centers are well aware of the sleep-mood connection. Sleep is a wonderful natural remedy, remote, and readily available.

Behavioral changes, emotional swings, stress, and anxiety are well-known sleep disruptors. Thus, a straightforward way to help with student wellness is to provide efficient ways to improve students’ sleep, so they can wake up refreshed and ready for their daily tasks.
Good sleep will reduce mood instability during the day and will improve performance, both physical and academic. Additional bonuses are better control over food cravings and less consumption of alcohol.

Regular sleep-help interventions are time-consuming, require human therapist participation that is scarce, and bears high costs. These solutions were almost unreachable before the COVID-19, and even more so now. Smart digital interventions are available to provide immediate help and relief from sleep difficulties, helping students to fall asleep easily, sleep soundly, and wake up feeling refreshed for the day.

The best solution: invest in wellness

So what should universities do in this current situation, just a couple of months away from the beginning of the new school year?
Given the fact that a solution is not in the horizon, and upon the upcoming government elections probably won’t arrive anytime soon, universities’ social staffs and HR are looking to allocate some of the current school year’s budgets that haven’t been fully utilized, and invest in solutions that will ease the current situation but will also be affordable. Considering the physical restrictions, the search should be towards digital solutions with long-term value. And what is more long-term value that the health and wellness of the university students and staff?

A few of the leading US universities and their student wellness departments, like the University of Iowa, MIT, and the University of Kentucky have embraced the Refresh Sleep Program powered by Sleeprate. This program aims to provide students and staff with the skills, strategies, and support to achieve more restful nights. The Refresh Sleep Program powered by Sleeprate comprehensive all-in-one solution helps achieve a better sleep-life balance and improve mental and physical performance – allowing the users to be more productive and lead a healthier lifestyle.

The program was designed by Sleeprate, which provides world-class technologies that offer people the most effective, reliable, and user-friendly sleep analysis, monitoring, assessment, and therapy – all in a single solution. Since 2006, with over half-a-decade of proven efficacy, Sleeprate has a proven patented sleep analysis and validated assessment, alongside a CBT-I (Cognitive Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia) smart algorithm solution.

Sleeprate’s unique sleep evaluation solution for improving sleep-life balance was developed and customized as a step-by-step program to improve mental and physical performance so that people can be more productive and effective throughout the day.

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