College towns are typically insulated from impacts of booms and busts of the usual business cycle; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the local economies and municipal budgets of these municipalities, with colleges and universities closing their doors almost overnight–cancelling events and sending students home.

While responding to the first wave of the pandemic was a tremendous challenge, these college towns now face an additional burden–how to prepare their communities as colleges and universities contemplate, announce, and even reverse course around the impending return of students to campus.

On Monday, August 12, ICMA was joined by three managers of college towns (Gainesville, Florida; State College, Pennsylvania; and Hanover, New Hampshire), as well as a university professor from Monmouth University, to discuss how their organizations are working, both on their own and in partnership with their anchor institutions and local public health authorities, to ensure a smooth and safe, integration of students back onto campus and into their communities.

The “community conversation” also addressed such issues as how to deal with impacts to local government services and impacts on the business community and the economy as colleges open or delay opening.

Listen to this conversation to learn how your college town manager colleagues dealt with such questions as:

  • What steps have college town managers taken to address the any gaps in revenue as they make adjustments to their current fiscal year budgets and begin developing next year’s budget proposal?
  • How are college towns working with university officials, local public health authorities, and area hospitals to develop reopening plans?
  • What are best practices for coordination with colleges/universities to ensure a safe return of students? What are examples of policies, programs, and safeguards that are showing success?
  • How have local businesses responded? Have a significant number of businesses closed and chosen not to reopen?
  • How have long-term residents reacted?
  • What are the continued impacts that you anticipate, particularly as universities announce suspensions of their sports schedules for the upcoming seasons?

Join us for further discussions on the challenges facing college towns as these issues evolve during the UNITE digital event, September 23-26.  Access the webinar.


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