The return of in-person learning has changed the college experience

The recent article, “As National Higher Education Enrollment Falls, Trends at Maryland Universities and Colleges Vary” (June 6), noted my experience as a student starting out at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, during the COVID-19 pandemic. But this article only told part of my story. I think the missing pieces can offer important insight into what students in Maryland and across the country have experienced over the past two years.

As described in the article, I withdrew from UMBC in the fall of 2020 and did not return in the spring of 2021. However, when I returned in the fall of 2021, the situation had changed significantly. Many classes were in person and, most important to me, student clubs and organizations were operating in person again. Back at UMBC, I lived on campus, joined three clubs, found a network of friends, and took all my classes in person while living with masking and some social distancing. As COVID disrupted my life and that of my peers, I adapted and found my own way to succeed.

Evidence of student enthusiasm to return to in-person learning can be seen in the number of freshmen joining UMBC since the fall of 2021. UMBC has seen a sharp increase in these numbers and the Last year saw its largest incoming class of first-year students. Also, the number of graduate students is increasing as people think more about their career opportunities. And, with more courses available online and hybrid than before the pandemic, many students who left before graduating even several years ago are returning to complete their degrees in a way that suits their timetable.

The diligence of my fellow students and UMBC faculty and staff in following COVID protocols enabled the safe reopening which contributed to my successful return to campus. I am more confident in my future with UMBC because of these successes and the social support systems that being in person has provided. Many students at UMBC and elsewhere have experienced aspects of my story. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I suspect that the desire for community, which in-person learning offers best, has driven the decisions of many college students during the pandemic.

—Alex Bauserman, Owings Mills

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