25% of students postponed college during Covid, some indefinitely

The coronavirus crisis has had a devastating impact on the finances of many families.

As a result, some students have had to sacrifice college.

A quarter of high school graduates last year have delayed their college plans, according to a survey by Junior Achievement and Citizens, mainly because their parents or guardians have been less able to provide financial assistance due to the pandemic.

The survey interviewed 2,000 teenagers in the US, ages 13-19, who weren’t in college and 500 teenagers who graduated from high school in 2020.

The sky-high price is increasingly the problem.

Students and their families are starting to question the return on investment, said Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement.

“We had this ‘college thing’ on a pedestal,” he said. “As costs have increased, people need to take a more realistic view.”

A separate survey of high school students found that the chances of attending four-year school dropped nearly 20% in less than a year – from 71% to 53%, according to the ECMC Group, a nonprofit that aims to help student borrowers .

According to the report, high schoolers place more emphasis on professional training and employment after college.

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More than half of those surveyed said they could achieve professional success with three years of study or less, and only a quarter believe that a four-year degree is the only way to get a good job. The ECMC Group surveyed more than 1,000 students three times in the past year.

“There are phenomenal opportunities for people to build great careers that might not be a four-year degree and you don’t have to borrow $ 100,000,” said Christine Roberts, director of student lending at Citizens.

But neither do the students choose these programs.

Historically, community colleges saw an influx of students during the economic downturn.

The Community College is much cheaper to start with. For two-year public schools, college tuition and tuition fees are $ 3,770 for the 2020-2021 school year, according to the College Board. Alternatively, the tuition fee at state four-year public schools is $ 10,560 and four-year private universities average $ 37,650.

A two-year program is not necessarily an alternative to a four-year degree. Increasingly, students are moving from community college to a four-year school to keep costs down.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, approximately half of all undergraduate graduates began their education at a community college today.

Enrollments in community colleges increased during the last recession, but as the economy improved, enrollments fell steadily each year, according to Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges.

This time, after the Covid outbreak and the economic shock that followed, fewer students enrolled.

According to Thomas Brock, director of the Community College Research Center (CCRC), enrollment at community colleges has declined by around 10% across the board. Although for some groups, including black men, enrollment has decreased by more than 20%.

“This is a trend that is alarming everyone,” he said.

Community college students are likely to be older, have lower incomes, and often balance work, children, and other responsibilities. They are also disproportionately high students of color – all of the groups hit particularly hard by the pandemic.

The Junior Achievement Report found that 60% of black and 59% of Hispanic teenagers in 11th or 12th grade said Covid affects how they pay for college, compared to 45% of white teenagers.

“If you look at our students and who we serve, you can extrapolate that they have challenges,” Parham said.

If these students drop out, it will be even harder to get back on track, she added. Community colleges don’t have the same public outreach resources, Parham said. “It will be a challenge.”

While leading indicators show that four-year college enrollment will recover in the coming year, it is too early to say whether community college students will also return.

Because community colleges are openly accessible, students can enroll for courses until the beginning of the semester or even later, Brock said. “We won’t know until early fall.”

If students forego this path to a career or a four-year degree, it could have dramatic consequences for their upward mobility, said Barbara Mistick, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

“The college experience is a great balance,” she said.

The university experience is a great balance.

Barbara Mistick

President of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

In fact, studies show that postponing higher education has a high economic cost.

According to a report from the Community College Research Center, the income gap experienced by delayers compared to on-time attendees is at least $ 41,000 for the first 13 years after high school graduation. The life sentence is at least three times higher.

Of course, those who put college on hold are less likely to return at all.

Historically, only 13% of college dropouts return within five years, according to a separate report from the National Student Clearinghouse, and even fewer graduates.

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