College towns brace for life with no students

Shuttered campuses, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, leave some communities wondering when — or if — life will return to normal. The economic impact could reverberate for years to come.


National News

June 22, 2020 - 9:44 AM

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What happens to a college town when the students disappear? Ithaca, a small upstate New York city nearby gorges and vineyards, is finding out.

Most of the 24,000 students at Cornell University and 6,200 more from Ithaca College effectively vanished in March when the coronavirus pandemic struck, leaving behind struggling restaurants and shops. Locals still reeling from the outbreak and resulting exodus are wondering when — or if — things will get back to normal.

“It’s going to be hard. I mean, normally we have about seven months that the colleges are here,” said Gregar Brous, who runs the local Collegetown Bagels shops, other restaurants and a catering operation. He has brought back just over 100 of the 330 employees he laid off, but the long-term fate of college-dependent businesses remain cloudy.

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