The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education

National Student Survey, Pt. III

In Wave 3 of our National Student Study, we surveyed 927 incoming college freshmen and 905 returning students living in the U.S, in order to understand how their opinions of COVID have changed from previous waves in March and April. We also wanted to learn about their preferences regarding instruction scenarios, their current fall plans, and their opinions on planned safety precautions when/if they return to campus; as well as garnering a better understanding of their fears about COVID-19 and the level of confidence they have in their institutions.

Key Takeaways

  • All enrollment is highly volatile.
  • Students don’t fully trust their institutions or fellow students to keep them safe.
  • Students are worried they’ll contract the virus.
  • Issues of race and inequity are exacerbated by COVID-19.
  • Effective communications are essential for brand trust.

How likely are you to change your mind about the college you want to attend as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak?

How has your opinion of your college/university changed since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the US? (by rating of COVID-19 communications)

Rate your level of agreement with each of the following statements:

If you had to choose from one of the following options for instruction this fall, what is your top choice?

Only 17% of returning students express a desire for full-time in-person instruction.

More and more students are embracing the idea of remote instruction. 41% of returning students want to go back to campus but take a mixture of online and in-person classes (a hybrid model), 30% want to stay home and take all classes online, and only 17% express a desire to return to full-time in-person instruction. These findings are in spite of the fact that, in March and April, students reported that the quality of the online instruction they were receiving was worse than the in-person instruction they received on campus.

Those students who would prefer to stay home and take classes online report higher anxiety over contracting COVID-19 when they return to campus, and feel less safe about living in residence halls.

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A 39% majority of incoming freshmen would prefer to stay home and take all their classes online.

For incoming freshmen, the results are also skewed in favor of online instruction; with a 39% majority stating that they want to stay home and take all of their classes online, and 30% preferring to attend campus but take some classes online and some in person. (Note that these results are reversed compared to returning students, with 30% of returning students indicating a preference for online-only instruction and a majority 41% preferring a hybrid model.)

Again, only 17% of incoming freshmen expressed a desire for full-time in-person instruction.

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