Research

Affordability, Health Top Concerns For College Students

Annual Citizens Survey Sees Angst About Undesirable Changes

Keith Griffin

September 16, 2020

Nervous college student

Sweeping changes to how colleges will engage with students and the costs associated with what many see as undesirable changes to the traditional college experience are guiding the thinking of students and their families as they continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research from Citizens.

In its third annual Student Lending Survey, which polled current college students and high school juniors and seniors, Citizens found that a majority of both high school (55%) and current college students (53%) said that concerns around public health and safety had a high impact on their plans post high school and for Fall 2020 college enrollment.

However, the research also showed that a significant minority of respondents are planning to stay the course, with 42% of both high school students and current college students saying that public health concerns had no or a low impact on their future plans.

Despite public health concerns, paying for college continues to be top of mind for high school students and parents, as 64% of high school students and 52% of parents of high school students say affordability had a high impact on the student’s post high school plans. Furthermore, 44% of current college students and 35% of parents of current college students said that concerns around affordability had a high impact on their Fall 2020 enrollment plans.

“The last few months have certainly added to the stress that families across the country experience when they think about how best to finance their children’s education,” said Christine Roberts, head of Student Lending at Citizens. “Our survey shows that young adults are not immune to the impact of the pandemic and continue to be worried about their future. This year is more important than ever for families to have conversations around paying for college and that financial institutions continue to help their customers navigate these unique times and provide support for economic stability.”

Weighing Uncertainties & Benefits

Both high school and college students expressed wariness over the benefit of attending college in the current COVID-19 environment. Approximately 4 in 10 high school students (42%) and current college students (39%) said that such concerns had a high impact on their future plans while nearly a third of high school students (29%) and current college students (32%) said it had a low impact. Meanwhile, 21% of high school students and 25% of current college students said this had no impact on their plans.

Nearly 4 in 10 current college students said that concerns about economic stability (38%) and concerns about the job market (38%) had high impacts on their Fall 2020 enrollment plans. Similarly, nearly half (47%) of high school students said that concerns about economic stability had a high impact on their post high school plans and 44% said concerns about the job market had a high impact on their plans.

In the COVID-19 era, high school and college students are feeling the weight of these uncertainties, along with significant changes to the format their education, as they make important life decisions for their future. After having already completed a turbulent spring semester, 37% of current college students said a disinterest in an online learning format had a high impact on their plans for the Fall 2020 semester. High school students show more concern with virtual learning formats, with 45% saying their disinterest in online learning formats had a high impact on their post high school plans.

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