Answering the question: "How might the coronavirus (COVID-19) impact higher education?"

I very much want to start with a disclaimer, we are answering this question because there is a steady increase in it being asked of us. But we are not remotely qualified to talk about infectious outbreaks, so everything below is based on our own research and has little to do with our academic and administrative experience and nothing to do with our knowledge of global health issues.

Yesterday (2/28/2020) Bill Gates said that "In the past week, COVID-19 has started to behave a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about" as the markets around the world declined precipitously and the WHO classified COVID-19 as a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern." There have been cases reported in 50 countries, and evidence that it might be spreading within communities (not from abroad) in the Western states in the U.S. So, we have seen a dramatic increase in attention to the spread of the virus.

The above said, institutions in general, with higher education being no exception, tend to react post-actively rather than preemptively. In the case of COVID-19, this might not necessarily be a bad thing. There are still so many unknowns in the United States. Right now, cancellation of upcoming courses in the United States, or even admitted student programs, would seem to be an overreaction. From an applicant's perspective then, immediate change shouldn't be recognizable nor likely warranted. Even for applicants coming from China, a country that has been much more significantly impacted, there is now some information that the situation might be stabilizing, in which case by August this might not be an issue at all as far as international matriculation. The key for colleges and universities will be, how nimble can they be if things worsen? It's one thing to cancel an admitted students program (I am going to one March 20th, and have been traveling for the past two weeks with zero concern FWIW), but quite another to cancel a semester of classes. The next two weeks should be very telling for universities and law schools in the United States.

This is a long-winded way of saying higher ed, beyond the scientific research arm and within schools endowments, has yet to react. Nor should you, other than by being vigilant. But, with the potential that the the virus does carry exponentially, with the average infected person spreading the disease to two or three others, it is something that should be monitored, because change could be rapid. We will do our best to update everyone should that change occur, but for now the best policy is to keep calm, wash your hands frequently, and carry on.