America’s college towns saw their populations plummet this spring when students fled the coronavirus. As the new academic year nears, many communities around the U.S. now face another economic shock — a dearth of young people and others connected with schools, whose annual influx of spending is counted on to sustain small businesses and replenish local government coffers. “It’s bordering on the worst-case scenario,” Steve Patterson, the mayor of Athens, Ohio, told CBS MoneyWatch.Athens, which sits on a bend in the Hocking River in southeast Ohio, is home to Ohio University, and nearly all of the city’s 24,000 residents are linked to the school in some way. But many locals were disappointed to learn last week that fewer than 500 students would be returning to campus in September. For now, most students will be learning remotely, according to the university’s current plan. Can’t pay the billsThe sudden disappearance of roughly 17,000 students from Ohio University’s Athens campus could leave a big hole in the city’s finances. The university is the city’s largest customer for water and sewer services. When students left in May, that void left a $100,000 gap in the budget. Mayor Patterson now expects a similar shortfall for September. On… Read full this story
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