By Jon Keller

BROCKTON (CBS) – University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan joined WBZ-TV political analyst Jon Keller to discuss challenges facing higher education as a result of the coronavirus.

Meehan said UMass schools will have about 15 percent of students on campus this fall.

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“Frankly, it’s going to be really difficult,” he said.

The UMass president said even before the coronavirus pandemic, he believed about 20-25% of New England colleges would merge or close in the near future.

“Colleges and universities are in horrible financial condition right now,” he said. “There are many places that are at risk.”

Part 2: Keller @ Large With Marty Meehan

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Coronavirus has heightened that risk, Meehan said.

“This pandemic has resulted in an escalation of that. I think we are going to see real challenges at colleges and universities over the next few years, which means there’s a lot of pressure on colleges and universities,” Meehan said. “Disruption is coming to higher education. Public, private, it is going to continue to change the model of learning. There’s going to be more online, we’re looking to expand what we do online. It’s changing dramatically.”

In recent months, UMass was forced to cut about 6% of its jobs and furlough thousands of others. Meehan said it’s possible more cuts are coming.

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“The bottom line is at the end of the day I want the university of Massachusetts to be financially strong for the long haul,” said Meehan. “You have to make these difficult decisions now. Otherwise you’re not going to be in a strong position in two or three years.”

Jon Keller