Economic ramifications and disappointment as Stanford cancels in-person classes

Stanford University will not have undergrads return to campus this fall as planned. Instead, almost all instruction will be done remotely.

According to Palo Alto’s mayor, Stanford is a significant driver of the local economy. The city relies on students who shop and dine and visitors who travel to the university. The university’s president called it a disappointing turn of events.

19-year-old Alejandra Campillo’s freshman year at Stanford University is not how she envisioned it. She won’t be living in a dorm and no campus life experience. It’s been reduced to a zoom call at a table in her home in Arizona.

“I’m not going to have the energy to jump on Zoom again to meet up with my professor to go over that one math problem,” said Campillo. “Right now, I have a lot of fear and I’m very uncertain to what the future holds.”

The university president notified the Stanford community on Thursday. The school will not be able to invite first-year, sophomore and new transfer undergrads on campus citing the changing COVID situation. Freshman Shreya Garg, who just graduated from Notre Dame High School San Jose, is relieved.

“Right now, the cases in Santa Clara County are spiking and if we invited thousands of students back onto campus that wouldn’t help the situation but at the same time it's pretty disappointing,” said Garg.

This comes two days after Pac-12 canceled all fall sports. The City of Palo Alto is anticipating a loss of $39 million from Covid, driven by lack of sales and hotel tax. Much of it is attributed to Stanford.

“Whether it’s a football game, visiting scholars, or students simply going downtown to the pharmacy or ice cream or get a coffee, Stanford is a big driver of our local economy,” said Mayor Adrian Fine.

Coupa Cafe has several locations on and off campus. Overall business is down 80 percent but the owner said she understands.

“I know this was painful for them and I know Stanford is hurting also believe it or not,” said Owner Nancy Coupal of Coupa Café.

As for Campillo, she understands it's a health matter out of her control but can't help but miss Stanford’s energy.

“Whether it be the engineering building or the Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research,” said Campillo. “To me, it’s so inspiring and it's a constant reminder you are here, you are at school and you here to do great things.”

Undergrads approved for housing because of special circumstances can still move in as well as graduate students. The university’s president is hopeful if health conditions improve, more undergrads can return for the winter quarter and juniors and seniors perhaps in the spring.