How Has the Pandemic Affected College Students in California?

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COVID-19 Student Survey Shows How Students Are Faring During Pandemic

  • Survey reveals increased levels of uncertainty and worry about the future
  • Largest such survey of college students in nation

By Leigh Houck, UC Davis Media Relations Intern

A study of college students by the California Student Aid Commission and UC Davis found that students have great concern about what the future holds, uncertainty about where they will attend, and how they will afford college and other basic needs expenses. Striking findings include:

  • Over 70 percent of current students lost some or all of their sources of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Almost half of all students had their living arrangements disrupted in spring 2020.
  • A quarter of students dropped one or more courses during the academic terms when COVID-19 hit.

The survey was sent to students statewide who submitted federal and state financial aid applications and who intended to enroll in college in the 2020-21 academic year. Consisting of college-bound high school seniors and existing college and university enrollees across all sectors of higher education in California, the sample size of 76,000 makes this COVID-19 survey the largest in the nation to gauge the impact of the pandemic on student populations.

Professor Michal Kurlaender and Sherrie Reed, executive director of the California Education Lab at UC Davis School of Education designed and implemented the survey with the California Student Aid Commission. 

Kurlaender Michal Kurlaender

Kurlaender said she was pleased to see that overall, students are still planning on going to college. Kurlaender suggests that for students,  “...the best way to weather this recession to the extent that they can is to continue to acquire skills that will be useful when the economy reopens…” 

Kurlaender pointed out students' overwhelming concern over online instruction, but also an unexpected positive: “The silver lining of remote learning is that students who might have had a hard time accessing college due to work or family schedules may now see some more flexible opportunities to obtain more schooling.” 

Sherrie Reed Sherrie Reed

Kurlaender suggested that policy responses to keep students in college need to go beyond providing tuition relief or access to books, supplies or internet access and must “...address the broader economic and health conditions that college students are going to face for at least the coming fall and into next year.”

 Read the official study results here


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