Impact of Coronavirus on Students’ Academic Progress and College Plans

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Last updated 5/14/20

Niche received survey responses from 80,848 high school and college students as well as parents to gauge the impact the COVID-19 global pandemic is having. This page will be updated as responses come in and the results will be shown in aggregate and as weekly time progressions.



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High School Students

High school students are remaining positive overall, though seniors less so. So far less than half of high school students have moved to online classes, but only 10% responded that they are as effective as in-person classes. They are shifting their college search and decision making online, relying much more on college search sites, student reviews, and virtual tours. There have been increases in student interest in attending a college close to home, trepidation about starting college this year, and concern for being able to pay for college. Uncertainty tends to make students and families more cautious, so support and community become even more important. Fortunately for high schools, 68% of students felt supported by their teachers and administrators.

What are they experiencing

  • 62% say that their school is handling this crisis well, 10% disagree
  • 64% have had their classes shifted online and 33% are experiencing a school closure. (Most recent results indicate 77% and 21%)
  • 11% of students find online classes as effective as in-person
  • 67% feel supported by their teachers and administrators
  • 74% feel that they will graduate on time now
  • View detailed responses from students

Changing behaviors and opportunities

  • 11% of seniors have not yet made their final decision on where to enroll later this year
  • 44% of seniors are reconsidering the schools on their list (most recent responses have increased to 57%)
  • 38% of seniors and 45% of juniors plan to choose a college closer to home than they were going to
  • 69% rely more on college search sites, student reviews, and social media for their college search and decision making
  • 71% are using virtual tours and events to see what schools are like
  • 8% say they are now more interested in online education

Challenges for enrollment managers

  • 9% of seniors are considering not enrolling or deferring admission for a year
  • 18% of seniors strongly agree that they feel prepared to start college now
  • 89% of seniors and 87% of juniors are more concerned about being able to pay for their education
  • 60% reported that how a college handles this situation will affect their decision

Feedback from students

  • “I prefer choosing a college that will start with in-person classes and not online classes.” HS Sr. Bloomington, IL
  • “I went from wanting to go to school out of state to wanting to stay in state.” HS Sr. Virginia Beach, VA
  • “I have been affected in my decisions because of both of my parents out of work as well as me, I have to choose what is the cheapest for me, keeping me from going to my top choice school. It also has pushed a lot of things back, campus tours, testing dates, orientations, etc.” HS Sr. Windermere, FL
  • “I plan to stay closer from home because this situation has sparked up an extra fear about my family’s safety. I need to be there for my family when in times of need.” HS Sr. Lomita, CA
  • “I’m getting less instruction from teachers and more assignments.” HS Jr. St Louis, MO
  • “A lot of my decisions have been delayed, and I have no way to visit each school, so I feel like I’m taking more of a risk when I make my decision. I have to do virtual tours and try to find students at each school to ask about the programs and my questions.” HS Sr. San Diego, CA
  • “I still very much plan on going to college but this event does make me anxious for the future. I don’t want it to interfere when I need to start going on college visits. Until that time, however, I will continue my online search and learn as much as I can about my prospective schools as I can, particularly through niche.com and those schools’ websites.” HS Jr. Randolph, NJ
  • “A classroom gives me structure, so I have been feeling almost overwhelmingly independent during these times. I do very well under pressure and am worried about becoming complacent during the most important semester yet. My teachers have been extremely supportive and have given us ample time to complete the assignments given to us.” HS Sr. Fayetteville, GA
  • “It has greatly shifted, in short I dislike it. I don’t have the in class discussions or the physical models or the right setting. At home I am compelled to avoid school work, I need the support of my teachers to remain active in school. Not just a screen but the people that create the educational setting.” HS Sr. Los Angeles, CA
  • “As the virus progresses and the stock market is dropping my parents are losing a lot of money and i no longer know if i will be able to afford college so i have to research more affordable schools.” HS Jr. Cincinnati, OH

Parents of PK-12 Students

Parents were more positive about the ways in which their child’s school is responding to this crisis than their children. Parents with children in charter schools and private, non religious schools were the most concerned. Private school parents were more likely to be considering sending their child to a different school next year – 16% vs 10%.

Their child’s experience

  • 61% have shifted to online classes
  • 34% have temporarily closed or closed for the year
  • 85% reported that their child has sufficient access to the Internet and technology to do their school work
  • 76% feel that their child is supported by their teachers and administrators
  • 66% responded that their child will still be on track to advance to the next grade

Perceptions of their child’s school

  • 75% feel their school is handling the crisis well
  • 36% have a more favorable view of online learning

How this is affecting their families

  • 11% are considering sending their child to a different school next year
  • Private, non religious school parents were most likely to consider changing schools – 21%
  • Public and online school parents were least likely to consider changing schools – 10 and 7%
  • 26% say childcare has become a challenge for their family

Feedback from parents

  • “She is not currently working on any educational homework. She has been drawing and painting a lot which she doesn’t do in school because she doesn’t believe she is good at it and therefore doesn’t take any art or design classes. She has refused to do any online learning I have suggested.” Public School, Iowa
  • “I don’t think sending workbooks are going to really help. I don’t think virtual learning is going to help. I think the school should have set times for each grade level teachers to teach a subject virtually. You can’t expect the parents to cover everything its not the same.” Charter School, Michigan
  • “My son is a senior, so there were so many traditions that won’t happen now. He is handling it well, as is the school. I don’t feel that he will learn as much, but there will not be much impact other than loneliness.” Boarding School, Alabama
  • “He was attending online school before the schools shut down. Unlike other children in his class, he will not fall behind.” Online School, Washington
  • “I’m really impressed with how my child is staying on top of all of his online assignments from his school. He is working really hard on school work. The only thing that would be great if his school had some online group projects so students feel connected to each other.  I’m really proud of how my child is adapting to online school.” Private, religious school. New Jersey
  • “My daughter is a senior in high school. She feels lost and alone in her senior classes/and plans for college. It is all an unknown for her and my son who is in 7th grade. My daughter is missing on on all the senior things- senior trip, prom, college visits, possibly graduation. She is very afraid about the future yet I try very hard as her mom and an essential worker in law enforcement to put her fears at ease.” Public School. Pennsylvania
  • “I think the online aspect is great, but so many of the great things about the schools that my children attend are social, art, or theatre or sports.  Being at home in a trapped learning environment is not a substitute for SCHOOL. School is the interactions that the kids have with all of the other kids, and the mentorship and socialization that results.” Private, non-religious school. California
  • “Working at home, and managing my 2nd grader’s remote learning has been a challenge. Her teachers are doing a great job of managing Google platforms and providing  lessons online, but it’s up to me to bring my kid to the learning table. Hard work when neither of us are used to being stuck at home all day!” Private, non religious school. Kansas
  • “My high school sons have technology electives this semester that involve lots of hand on workshop projects that require tools, supplies, and equipment not available in homes, like welding and soldering and circuit boards. Moving to online learning isn’t going to help them at all. My fourth grade daughter loved going to school and socializing with friends and staff. She had great grades and was very self motivated. Now she could care less about online learning because the social aspect of learning is gone and so is her motivation.” Public School. Virginia

College and Graduate Students

College students, especially those in graduate programs, are positive about the way in which their college is handling this crisis. While they were slightly more likely than high school students to find online classes as effective as in-person, the vast majority did not. Less than half reported confidence that the economy and job market would recover, signaling additional anxiety post college. Of more concern, and an opportunity to reach out with financial counseling, was that 93% were concerned about paying for their education.

What are they experiencing

  • 65% felt their college was handling the crisis well
  • Graduate schools are receiving the highest praise – 72% approve of response
  • Private and Public 4-year undergraduate colleges have the lowest approval – 62%
  • 86% have shifted to online learning, only 6% have experienced temporary or semester-long closures
  • 15% of students find online classes as effective as in-person
  • 74% reported that they have sufficient access to technology or Internet access to succeed
  • 93% are more concerned about being able to pay for their education, only 2% are not
  • 66% feel supported by faculty and administrators
  • View detailed responses from students

Enrollment for next year

  • 70% responded that how a school handles this situation will affect their decision to enroll next year
  • 20% are considering transferring or taking at least one semester off (most recent responses are indicating 22% are)
  • Career/Trade School students are least likely to transfer or take time off – 9%

Considerations for the future

  • 45% are confident that the economy and job market will recover before they are looking for a job
  • 54% of graduate school students are confident in a recovery
  • Public 4-year college students are the least confident at 42%
  • 63% are more reliant on college search sites, student reviews, and social media than before
  • 27% are more likely to to consider online education in the future, 53% disagree
  • 66% feel that they can still graduate on time

Feedback from students

  • “I live on a remote island in Alaska. My internet is very slow and drops easy. I was in a middle of a test and the internet dropped. Ended up getting a bad grade because of that. Other than that it’s fine doing on-line classes.” Public 4-year college. Alaska
  • “The current pandemic has not affected my personal educational experience because I was taking on-line courses prior to the pandemic. However, it has been a struggle to complete my assignments, work and be a teacher for my child while they are out of school.” Community College. Indiana
  • “The trade program that I am starting is for automotive technology. Since, the Corona Virus has hit the US, it is causing me to start my learning online and from home. The certificate that I am going for requires hands on training and it will be very difficult to get that due to the covid19.” Trade School. Tennessee
  • “I am a graduate student trying to do research for a dissertation. This may put me behind an extra year because of the inability to conduct the research.” Graduate Student. Kansas
  • “A majority of the classes that I signed up for this semester were labs and other hands on courses. While they can technically be transferred online (,through streaming videos of the sites in the field, completing online lab assignments, or watching videos of dance performances), they were dependent on the fact that they would be done in person. I feel like I’m losing a large chunk of my education.” Private 4-year college. New York
  • “I no longer want to attend a school in a larger city.” – Public 4-year college. California
  • “Majority of my professors waited until a week after we were sent home to inform us on how the classes would proceed. Two of my six classes follow the same class meeting times on Zoom. I find that in my household I don’t have an effective space we’re I work properly. I am generally a motivated student, but I have not felt as motivated as I was when on campus.” Private 4-year college. Pennsylvania
  • “I chose an online program for a number of reasons, one particular reason being flexibility. COVID-19 has affirmed my decision that a high-ranked online program is positive choice for a number of reasons, including flexibility for times like these.” – Graduate Student. Washington
  • “This situation has greatly impacted my educational experience because now I have to spend even more time studying to understand material and the resources I normally use in person at school are not as available since everything has switched to online (i.e., tutoring, office hours, records and administration, counselors). ” Community College. California

Parents of College and Graduate Students

In spite of the higher student support, parents of college students were less positive about the ways in which their child’s college is handling the crisis. This may be mirrored in our recent sentiment analysis of Niche reviews in which parent reviews displayed lower trust. This may be in part because the students have more of a relationship with the institution and experience than the parents. Most parents also reported concerns about their child’s ability to find a job after graduation now as well as their own ability to financially contribute to their child’s education. This may explain why 93% of college students reported concern for paying for their education.

Their child’s experience

  • 85% have shifted to online classes
  • 12% have temporarily closed or closed for the year
  • 63% feel that their child is supported by their teachers and administrators
  • 65% feel that their child’s college is handling the crisis well
  • 27% have a more favorable view of online education

How this is affecting their families

  • 57% will be less able to financially contribute to their child’s education
  • 47% are concerned about their child’s ability to find a job after graduation
  • 20% of their children are considering transferring or taking at least a semester off

Feedback from parents

  • “Unfortunately my child goes to school about 3 hours away from home and it was very inconvenient and expensive to have to move all of her things out in 48 hours notice. This was very disruptive to our situation especially since I attend a junior college myself and now have to finish my nursing course online.” Ohio
  • “I don’t believe my child is getting the same educational experience not being in a classroom in front of a professor and other students. Asking questions and giving their opinions are critical to learning.” Florida
  • “My daughter, college sophomore, is doing all on-line classes at TAMU, and doing fine academically; however, the stress of the mid semester schedule change coupled with moving home has been a significant stressful adjustment. Financially, this is an extra level of expenses we just are struggling with. We have to continue her off-campus apartment expense and are covering her expenses at home.” Texas
  • “The anti-climax of his senior year ending in distance learning and stay at home semi quarantine is very disappointing and frustrating for my son. He feels that the classes are “not real” and not taken seriously. His school has done nothing to acknowledge their graduating seniors who invested 4 years on learning at their institution in anyway after postponing their graduation indefinitely. There are many creative things their marketing and communications department could do.” New York
  • “My son was on track as an honor student in a good fashion program. He will be unable to graduate on time as some of his classes are impossible to complete online. This also causes us to pay for an empty apartment and will cost us an additional amount for short term rent in order to allow him to finish school whenever they are back to normal in-person classes. This will affect his financial aid and grants. Also there is an emotional impact.” Oregon
  • “Moving to all online for engineering students does not come close to the hands on labs they need.” California
  • “Unfortunately, one of her classes for the Spring quarter she enrolled in was canceled due to the pandemic. She is forced to take another class which would require her to take 2 more extra credits, which is more money. She only needed to take a two credit course but was forced to take a three credit course so she can continue to be on track. Terrible situation where you are forced to pay more money when not needed.” California

How can schools respond and continue recruiting?

  • Stepping Back, Readjusting, but Still Recruiting in a COVID Quarantined World
  • Continue recruiting and building relationships
  • Exploring removing deposit requirement, push back May 1 deadlines if you’re not a rolling admission institution.
  • Revisit local inquiries and applicants, they may be reconsidering.
  • Prepare for more transfer applicants, make sure closed offices won’t delay the process and add more stress.
  • While the numbers of students and parents considering leaving is small now, that can change rapidly. There is a great deal of financial uncertainty.
  • Invest in social content as a way of maintaining that sense of place and belonging.
  • Work with financial aid offices to address needs.
  • School districts can reach out to local agencies to help support families.
  • Address student concerns and continue supporting teachers and faculty as they transition classes online.
  • Work with the local community to provide Internet access to students and families without.
  • This is an opportunity for online providers to step in and help with support and expertise.

Appendix of Data

Count of Responses By Segment:
15,310 HS Jr or younger
36,291 HS Sr
2,030 Parents of PK-12 students
25,068 College/Graduate students
575 Parents of college students
1,574 Did not fit a category, left comments (based upon comments these were often gap year students, teachers, administrators, and counselors)

Will Patch

Will Patch is the Enrollment Marketing Leader at Niche and helps clients with their enrollment strategies and digital outreach. He also shares insights and research on the Enrollment Insights blog and through webinars and a monthly newsletter. Prior to coming to Niche in the summer of 2019, he served Manchester University for 9 years in roles including Digital Strategist, Social Media Coordinator, and Associate Director for Admissions Operations. Outside of Niche, Will also coordinates the #EMChat community on Twitter, with weekly chats Thursdays at 9:00 PM Eastern.
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