The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, an independent nonprofit research and policy institute, says its analysis of federal data shows 75% of households with someone intending to take postsecondary classes changed their plans during COVID-19.
Some would-be students canceled postsecondary plans completely, while others changed the number of classes they took, enrolled in a different program or institution, or took classes in a different format.
Nationwide, undergraduate enrollment decreased by 4% (nearly 530,000 students) across all types of institutions, and by 10% at public two-year colleges. The data came from Household Pulse Survey, a biweekly data collection by the U.S. Census Bureau to assess the impact of COVID-19.
Taking classes in a different format was the most common change in fall plans (39% of households), but 37% percent canceled their postsecondary plans entirely. Most likely to cancel plans were people intending to take classes in a certificate or associate degree program.
The most frequent reason cited for abandoning postsecondary plans were concerns about contracting the COVID-19 virus and the inability to pay tuition because of pandemic-related income loss.
“Having at least some postsecondary education increases an individual’s likelihood of finding a good job and earning more over the course of a lifetime,” wrote Anthony P. Carnevale, director and research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
“Changes in students’ postsecondary plans can disrupt their long-term educational trajectories, particularly when they cancel their plans outright,” Carnevale said.
This could have major consequences for low-income students, who are more likely to delay or cancel their plans and to fall behind in their college attainment compared with high-income students, who are finding ways to continue with their postsecondary education, he said.