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Brown University President Says Reopening Colleges This Fall Should Be A Priority

Princeton University economist and Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Christina Hull Paxson laughs as she tells a story about her brother during her introduction as the 19th President of Brown University in Providence, RI., Friday, March 2, 2012. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
Princeton University economist and Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Christina Hull Paxson laughs as she tells a story about her brother during her introduction as the 19th President of Brown University in Providence, RI., Friday, March 2, 2012. (Stephan Savoia/AP)

The president of Brown University says reopening college campuses this fall should be a "national priority" for the well-being of the economy as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Higher education employs about three million people and as recently as the 2017-18 school year accounted for more than $600 billion of spending into the national gross domestic product, Brown University President Christina Paxson wrote in an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Sunday.

The loss of revenue if colleges do not reopen in the fall would be "catastrophic," and could force the closure of many institutions, she said.

Colleges and universities should be developing public health plans now, which include aggressive testing for the virus, contact tracing and changing the way events that attract large crowds are handled, said Paxson, who has led the Ivy League school in Providence since 2012.

Students should be prepared for dramatic changes to campus life. They may be required to wear masks on campus, and even large lecture classes may still be held online.

"Imagine athletics events taking place in empty stadiums, recital halls with patrons spaced rows apart and virtual social activities replacing parties," she wrote.

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