Colleges That Keep Small Isolated Towns Vibrant Now Pose Public Health Threat - VPR

There's a lot riding on a kickoff set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12.

"The Sterling College Warriors are scheduled to take on the McPherson College Bulldogs at home. If that familiar thud of shoe against football and cheer from the stands doesn't happen, the college that keeps the central Kansas town's economy humming, that gives it cultural vitality, and that separates Sterling from the hollowing out that defines so many other small Midwestern towns, might not survive. The school, after 133 years, could die and doom the town that takes such pride in the football squad and embraces the student body like family.

"If COVID defeats the athletic season this year, it will probably defeat a lot of small colleges," said Jeb Miller, a non-traditional senior at Sterling College. "And, as a result, harm a lot of small towns. Badly." Hundreds of small colleges dotting the country rely on students paying tens of thousands of dollars a year in exchange for a distinctive, personal, high-touch college experience. Many of those colleges hung on year-to-year even before the pandemic. Now COVID-19 threatens to cut off the oxygen sustaining these schools, and the sports programs that drive enrollment."


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