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Articles / Applying to College / Report Reveals How COVID-19 Is Changing Students' College Plans

Report Reveals How COVID-19 Is Changing Students' College Plans

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | May 27, 2020
Report Reveals How COVID-19 Is Changing Students' College Plans


I was quite surprised by some findings of a survey done by Strada Education Network. The most surprising result gathered from over 8,000 adults was that, overall, 34 percent of American adults (ages 18 to 64) have canceled or changed education plans due to the pandemic. That's significant.

Imagine how that statistic is affecting higher education. As you may have seen from my recent articles, colleges and universities are scrambling to make decisions and create contingency plans for their Fall 2020 semesters. The impact of the changes and cancellations from this 18 to 64 age group will further fan the flames of uncertainty that are making the coming fall school year so difficult for administrators to plan.

Plan Adjustments Shift Based on Age

Other survey findings include:

- While young adults were the most likely to cancel or change their plans, when those ages 25 to 44 did alter their plans, they were more likely to cancel or delay their educations as opposed to making other changes such as a reduction in course hours or change of school.

This may have to do with independence. Older adults, such as those in the 25 to 44 age group, are likely not living with the benefit of parents who could provide financial support and strategic counsel. For these adults, canceling or delaying educational plans may be the result of a job loss or job change caused by the pandemic. The loss of this group's revenue stream will make a strong negative impact on colleges, since older adults have been a growing demographic on campus. Specifically, a 35 percent increase in college students aged 25 to 34 occurred between 2001 and 2015. Between 2015 and 2026, enrollment is projected to increase 11 percent.

- Among those who are not currently enrolled, Americans ages 25 to 44 are just as likely to start a new program in the next six months as those ages 18 to 24.

Beyond the 34 percent who plan to cancel or change their education plans, this 25 to 44 segment of older adults offers some good news for college planners. How much these new-program seekers will affect college revenue, though, remains to be seen. Schools that have the resources to exploit this opportunity should be doing targeted marketing to this demographic. As savvy marketers know, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit and other social media platforms each offer different ways to reach this group. Again, the unpredictability of the coming six months will make it difficult to project enrollments from these prospective enrollees.

- Those with postsecondary degrees or credentials are more likely to enroll in all types of education than those without postsecondary degrees or credentials.

Education inspires education. For example, bachelor's degree holders often encounter career advancement opportunities with a master's degree. The phrase "all types of education" includes graduate study, both on campus and online. With some 30 million currently seeking unemployment benefits due to COVID-19, some in that group with postsecondary degrees may view the pandemic-related pause in their careers as a chance to enhance their profiles by taking additional classes or even entering a formal graduate-level program. Colleges are now using CARES funds to incentivize enrollments through financial aid grants, so the educational cost factor has been eased.

- Families are ranked as the most valuable source of advice about education or training for those considering enrolling.

The concept of role model as counselor is a strong influence here. I see this survey finding pertaining more to the 18 to 24 age group than to the 25 to 44 demographic, due to the relative independence of the latter. The younger group is, in general, much more likely to have ongoing contact with some degree of a nuclear family. That, in turn, presents opportunities for guidance and specific counseling about careers. The role of the parent is critical and can be highly influential for teens and early 20-somethings who are looking for educational direction.

Consider These Resources

You may be in one of the groups mentioned above. You also may find yourself in one or more of the circumstances cited in the five key survey findings. Because of the urgency that COVID-19 has brought to our personal circumstances, discovering trends and populace attitudes can help us develop strategies and make important decisions. Here are four resources that can give you insights into targeted trends and help you evaluate and plan for your financial and educational needs during these challenging times.

- The Coronavirus Impact on Personal Finances

The April 2020 AP-NORC Poll finds that evaluations of the economy continue to decline as Americans start to feel effects of the coronavirus outbreak on personal finances.

With businesses shuttered across the country in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Americans are taking an increasingly negative view of the US economy as many of them start to feel the effects of economic turmoil. Many report lost jobs or income and trouble paying bills. Yet, they also remain fairly optimistic about their personal finances over the next year. And while they remain supportive of social distancing measures enacted by state and local governments, they also want the government to provide more financial assistance to individual Americans and small businesses.

The public's view of the US economy continues to decline in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Since January, when 67% described the national economy as good, the share who say the economy is doing well has declined to just 29%

- College And University Presidents Respond to COVID-19: April 2020 Survey

In a time of unprecedented crisis, the American Council on Education knows that it is more valuable than ever to have an up-to-date record of the concerns and challenges faced by college and university presidents. In early April, ACE fielded the first of 12 monthly Pulse Point surveys to gather presidents' insights and experiences with COVID-19 and its effects on their institutions and the larger higher education landscape. In this first survey, 192 presidents shared their most pressing concerns and assessed their institution's capacity and needs on prominent COVID-19 issues, including financial impact, remote learning, and student mental health

- Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2019

This report describes the responses to the 2019 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) as well as responses to a follow-up survey conducted in April 2020. The Federal Reserve Board has fielded this survey each fall since 2013 to under- stand the wide range of financial challenges and opportunities facing families in the United States.

The findings in this report primarily reflect the financial circumstances of families in the United States in late 2019, prior to the onset of COVID-19 and the associated financial disruptions. At that time, overall financial well-being was similar to that seen in 2018 for most measures in the survey. Consistent with economic improvements over the prior six years, families were faring substantially better than they were when the survey began in 2013. Even so, the results highlight areas of persistent challenges and economic disparities across financial measures, even before the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. In particular, the substantial disparities in overall well-being by race and ethnicity remained in 2019, and the disparity by education widened in recent years

- Higher Education and COVID-19 National Student Survey

In April 2020, EY-Parthenon surveyed 3,675 current college students (freshman through juniors) across four- and two-year public and private institutions to assess the impact of COVID-19 on higher education delivery and student expectations.

The survey measured students' outlooks on topics such as online course quality, advising and tutoring, social/engagement enhancements, academic improvements, overall satisfaction with remote learning, and expectations for the fall term. The goal was to provide insights to US colleges and universities to help them improve remote engagement and learning for students

The Strada survey page lists additional resources that can provide important information. I encourage you to stay in touch with Strada. They will continue to update their COVID-19 Resource Center with new data, future strategies and virtual events. They'll track surveys and findings from numerous sources that assess COVID-19's impact on Americans' attitudes and experiences related to education and work. Use these facts to enhance your situation as the pandemic continues to evolve.

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Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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