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COVID’s educational impact: 25% of students postponed college

April 16, 2021, 4:30 PM UTC

The pandemic hasn’t just been hard on students struggling to keep up via virtual learning platforms. A growing number of high school graduates are forgoing college as well.

A new survey from Junior Achievement USA and Citizens finds that 25% of the high school class of 2020 delayed their plans to attend college because of COVID-19. And many of those delays may become permanent. Just 20% of those graduates have the goal of getting a college degree in the next 10 years.

The survey polled 2,000 U.S. teenagers who are not in college ranging in age from 13 to 19 and 500 teens who graduated high school in 2020.

Finances, not surprisingly, were the biggest reason for the delays. As many Americans struggled financially during the pandemic, higher education became a luxury that became unaffordable. Nearly 75% of the 2020 graduates surveyed said they were relying on parents or guardians to help them pay for part of college. And 37% said their family had to cut back on their planned support because of the coronavirus’s impact.

The good news for universities is this does appear to be an aberration. Some 40% of teens who have not yet graduated from high school say they plan to earn a college degree in the next 10 years. And only 12% say they plan to delay attending college because of COVID-19.

And the good news for high school graduates and parents is that college tuition is seeing its steepest drop since 1978. The consumer price index for college tuition and fees fell 0.7% last August.

But attending a college or university is still expensive. College costs have surged in the past two decades, far outpacing inflation. The median published tuition and fee price at a four-year institution came to $12,710 in the 2019–2020 school year, according to the College Board.