COVID-19’s Impact on “The Class of Coronavirus” According to 2020 Graduates

by | Jun 3, 2020 | Education Feature

For millions of college students across America, the start of the fall semester usually marks the beginning of a new term, new classes, new opportunities, and for many, the start of the college experience altogether.

This year, the pomp and circumstance that typically accompanies the beginning of a new semester is being dramatically overshadowed by the global health crisis triggered by COVID-19. Many colleges transitioned to online and remote learning for a majority of their spring semester in an effort to adapt to the social distancing guidelines and recommendations issued by their respective state. While the full count remains to be seen, many colleges appear ready to adjust to the fall semester as well. By some estimations, the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the higher education industry could ultimately spell doom.

But just how devastating is the idea of remote learning to the college experience, and how do college students feel about taking their course load digital? To find out, surveyed over 1,000 college students and graduates for their take on the government’s response to COVID-19 and what these changes mean for their educational futures.

The Impact of COVID-19 On Higher Education

Overwhelmingly, more than 2 in 3 students (69%) believe COVID-19 has negatively impacted their education quality, and nearly as many (67%) said the same about their college experience. Almost half of students perceived a negative impact on the future value of their education due to COVID-19.

Even if they feel shortchanged by the impact of COVID-19, a majority of students support how their schools have handled the crisis. More students approve of their university’s response to COVID-19 (79%) than approve of the response by the federal government (53%).

Most commonly, the decisions to cancel classes (93%), to shutter campuses (91%), to cancel events (91%), and to cancel travel (90%) by schools were met with considerable support by students. The most controversial efforts were made by schools that canceled their semesters entirely, with just 31% of students supporting that decision.

Even if it’s not the experience they were anticipating, 60% of college students who switched to remote learning were happy with the transition. More than half of students who participated in online classes as a result of COVID-19 believe those courses will help prepare them for future semesters (59%), prepare them for their careers ahead (54%), and will still provide the education they expected (52%).

Challenges of Remote Learning

Still, moving the college experience into a digital landscape is not without its challenges. Many students were frustrated by their bandwidth issues and technical difficulties (66%), followed by less productive classroom interactions (61%) and less effective instruction (44%).

Some students who found the unexpected shift to remote learning opportunities less than desirable believe they’re entitled to certain forms of compensation. Sixty percent expect to be given leniency with grading, and just as many hoped for leniency with their assignments (58%). More than half of college students expected some form of discount or refund on the money they paid for tuition toward the spring semester.

Frustrations with remote learning aside, 97% of college students and graduates support nationwide social distancing, with 48% identifying it as “essential” and another 36% saying it’s a “high priority.” More than 4 in 5 students believe it’s harmful to others to disregard social distancing, and nearly 3 in 4 consider it selfish. Just 1% of college students said social distancing is not a priority for them.

Post-Higher Education Outlook

Looking beyond their educations, 81% of college students are concerned about the implications of COVID-19 on the careers ahead of them. Roughly 1 in 3 recent grads expect COVID-19 to impact their transition into adult life negatively, and more than 1 in 4 students anticipate temporarily delaying their education.

Without a doubt, a majority of students and recent grads alike are feeling anxious and unsure about what the future holds for them. The state of the education system remains unclear, and many students are feeling less optimistic about both their education and their careers.

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