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'The Cost Of Not Acting': Experts Warn Ineffective Virtual Learning Could Cost Students Up To 9% Of Lifetime Earnings

Photo: Thomas Park
Photo: Thomas Park

This week marks one year since school buildings in Florida closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. National experts are raising alarms that a generation of students could face negative impacts from virtual learning that last a lifetime.
Annette Anderson is a professor of education at Johns Hopkins University. "If the learning loss is too great, the concern is for how that affects them as future earners in the economy. What jobs will be available for them? Does that mean that we will have a cumulative impact on our GDP as a nation?" GDP stands for gross domestic product. Basically, our country's economic output during a given year. Eric Hanushek says yes — pandemic learning loss will hurt our GDP. He's an education economist with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. He predicts the U.S. could lose nearly $30 trillion dollars over what's left of this century. That's as if more than a year of our economy just disappeared. He says learning loss will also hurt these students individually in the long run. "The average student who has not had the old-fashioned learning that they would have expected is going to have 6 to 9 percent lower income if we don’t do anything." Emma García is also an education economist. She's with the Economic Policy Institute. "When we hear all these big numbers, we have to understand that that's the cost of not acting." Some potential solutions they recommend: Extending the school day or year for some students so they can make up for lost time. Designing individualized instruction to meet students' needs. And matching the best teachers with the students who have struggled the most. For more of our reporting on how the pandemic has affected education in Florida, visit classofcovid.org.