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New Data on Student Opinions About Online Higher Education

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Image of an empty lecture hall.

Image of an empty lecture hall.

This May 19, 2020 report from Inside Higher Ed highlights findings from three studies exploring the potential impact of a shift to online education due to COVID-19 on college enrollment. Facing economic constraints and health concerns, many students are changing their post-secondary next steps. A survey of parents on "their child's post-high school plan," by Civis Analytics reported that nearly half of respondents' children have changed their plan.

Looking at high school seniors, a survey of 2,800 respondents conducted in May 2020 by Carnegie Dartlet compared outcomes to data gathered in March. Of respondents, "only 2 percent of students have plans to delay presently, and 42 percent will not delay under any circumstance (up from 34 percent in March)." However, attendance may be contingent on institutions making additional financial resources available to students. The authors found that "nearly two-thirds" of respondents would be less likely to attend without opportunities like student loans, which "shift[ed] many to a neutral standing." They also found that "yearlong grants, increased scholarships or reduced tuition or fees ... significantly increasing the likelihood of attending a college." The results also indicate that there is "significant ... interest in living on campus," among all prospective student demographics surveyed.

For current post-secondary students, "a survey of 12 different institutions (with more than 15,000 student responses)," by Kennedy & Company found an almost 30 percent difference in respondents' "likeliness to re-enroll if fall instruction is on campus versus fully online," with 92 percent of students surveyed preferring in-person instruction, compared to 63 percent still likely to re-enroll with entirely remote instruction.

If guaranteeing in-person instruction for the fall is not possible, the results suggest that putting "firm plans in place for managing a COVID-19 outbreak including social distancing," would make 40 percent of respondents more likely to attend. Improving the quality of online courses was also considered beneficial, rated as a cause to attend by 31 percent of students surveyed.

  • education
  • finance
  • health
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