Does Corona virus mean death of college towns across the United States? As a Washington State University alum, I can safely say I’m worried this pandemic may harm all of us more than we think if it turns out to be the death knell of many towns across America that relied heavily on colleges and universities to get them by. Pullman is a prime example.
Pullman, Washington is nestled deep in the heart of Palouse country where golden fields of wheat are seen among the rolling hills. The first day I went there in early July 1984, I thought the drive was an end-less winding adventure that I never really got used to driving from where my parents lived over in West Richland.
As it was, the town I learned was an enjoyable community of courteous citizens who looked forward to The students return each fall semester starting in August. I decided after my first year to just live there through the summer. I never regretted the experience.
When all 19,000 students arrived the town of 10,000 town residents supports them, opening their homes and businesses and reaping the benefits. The highlight for locals and students alike was football, where alumni, parents and friends of students flocked to cheer on our beloved Cougars. Six Saturdays in three months of autumn, highlighted every other year by the Apple Cup, loyal fans in their Winnebago’s, Chevy’s or Dodges would flock this town and spend millions of dollars on the local economy including restaurants and hotels.
Now it seems, this may become the beginning of the end here. The hope of course with everyone was this pandemic would have been suppressed to the point where such return-to-normal activities like sports could be back in time for football. Instead, the numbers tell us all a vastly different story.
The Pac 12 along with Big 10, as well as many other conferences cancelled all fall athletics And, it’s not just about school sports either. It’s a national crisis. Like Pullman, many small and rural communities whose lifeline is the college or university it calls home are desperately in need of a miracle right now. This is unlike anything this country has ever experienced and no national relief is going to resolve this either. Certainly, it would help if our Congress and President made certain an amount of this relief package would also include helping small businesses in these towns whose sole source of income is supporting those colleges.
I only hope this crisis ends before it is too late.