November 20, 2020

Need to know: COVID-19

Dropping knowledge

A new CDC study looks at Duke University’s COVID-19 response this fall and holds lessons for other colleges and universities. The key to their success: frequent asymptomatic testing combined with contact tracing. How did they do it?

The university used pooled testing, a strategy that enables large-scale testing at a lower cost by combining samples. By September 20, the school was testing residential undergraduates twice weekly, off-campus undergraduates one to two times per week, and graduate students once a week. They also targeted testing to locations or cohorts where data suggested an increased risk for transmission.

From August 2-October 11, they had tested 68,913 specimens from 10,625 students. Of those, 84 specimens were positive, half of which were from students with no symptoms — highlighting the importance of asymptomatic testing. According to the report, only 6% of colleges with in-person classes and approximately 5,000 undergraduates routinely tested their students this fall. Read the rest of the report for more.

For your consideration

The Lumina and Gates foundations released a new report urging state policymakers to rethink “across-the-board” funding cuts to higher education, such as those that occurred during the Great Recession. “Not only would another round of higher education cuts hamper our economic resiliency, it would also increase inequality,” the report states.

They outline a framework to help policymakers make strategic budget decisions, guided by the following principles:

  1. Prioritize funding for institutions that can best serve Black, Hispanic, Native American, and low-income students and those institutions that provide timely opportunities for unemployed or underemployed individuals to reskill.
  2. Protect and expand need-based financial aid through increased or reallocated investment.
  3. Support programs and strategies that advance students’ ability to complete credentials.
  4. Expand resources and invest differently to drive economic growth.
  5. Evaluate and improve system and institutional cost structures.

They also set out a number of “essential ‘first order’ priorities.”

Screen Shot 2020 11 20 at 11.15.17 AMRead the full report to see their recommendations for each principle.

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