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How COVID-19 has Impacted College Students

COVID-19 has impacted college students

The COVID-19 pandemic has served up unprecedented challenges for every segment of the population. Essential workers must protect themselves daily from contracting the coronavirus. With school held remotely across the country, working parents must figure out how they’ll also keep their jobs. And millions have lost their jobs or face extended furloughs.

COVID-19 has impacted college students as well. College students are juggling worries of their own, too. They missed out on a myriad of college experiences in the spring when institutions shut down. And now, as the fall semester begins and colleges attempt to open, some are returning to virtual instruction as COVID cases grow on campus.

Here are four ways COVID-19 has impacted college students.

They’re missing out on their education.

In a June 2020 study of 1,500 students at Arizona State University, researchers found some startling numbers as the crisis leveled serious financial strain on families and students. Because of the pandemic, 13% of students plan to delay their graduation, 11% withdrew from a class in the spring and 12% planned on changing majors. At the same time, some 50% reported a drop in their study hours and academic performance.

When compared to higher-income students, lower-income students are 55% more likely to delay graduation because of COVID and 41% more likely to report that the pandemic has made them rethink their major, according to the study.

And another survey of college students by OneClass this spring found that 56% could no longer afford tuition and would have to find new financing or leave and seek full-time employment instead.

They’re losing out on jobs and work opportunities that impact their finances.

Long before the pandemic, most college students worked. A 2018 study from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University found that 70% of college students were working while they also were a full-time student.

But, as the pandemic prompted historic unemployment rates, it also triggered job losses for college students. Some could no longer work on-campus jobs in the spring when they returned home for online learning. Others were let go from service jobs at businesses that closed during the pandemic, for example

The Arizona State survey found that working students experienced a 31% decrease in their wages and a 37% reduction in their weekly hours, on average. At the same time, 40% of students lost a job, internship or job offer. And 61% said they had a family member who had lost income because of the pandemic.

They also reported that, going forward, they expect it will be harder to find a job and that the pandemic will have far-reaching impacts on their ability to earn money even 15 years from now.

They’re more anxious and depressed.

Fall football games. Hanging out with friends in the dorm room. Socializing on the weekends. In-class discussions. Group projects and student leadership opportunities. College students are missing out on the experiences that can help launch them into the next phase of their lives.

Along with those missed experiences and stress over academics and finances, college students also are facing new mental health challenges. A 2020 study from Dartmouth College found that college students in the spring reported increased anxiety and depression and were more likely to be sedentary than they were in other years. That could lead to long-lasting issues for today’s college students, researchers said.

 “Clearly the impact of COVID-19 extends beyond the virus and its direct impacts,” said Jeremy Huckins, a lecturer on psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth, in a press release. “An unresolved question is if mental health and physical activity will continue to degrade over time, or if we will see a recovery, and how long that recovery will take.”

Their institutions could be in dire straits.

As the pandemic shuts down campuses, colleges and universities are losing millions of dollars in tuition and fees as some students drop out and lost revenue from other activities, including, potentially, ticket sales to football games and other sporting events.

According to ABC News, the University of Michigan’s three campuses expect to lose as much as $1 billion this year. And at least one college, MacMurray College in Illinois, closed in May. The pandemic only worsened the already complicated financial condition of the 174-year-old institution, according to the announcement.

While some colleges can handle the burden, many more will be looking for other options to bolster their finances in the years to come. That includes higher tuition, according to Forbes, which could force more students to go into debt to pay for a college education.

There’s no question that COVID-19 has impacted college students, just like it has impacted all of us. Going forward, the future is uncertain as the world waits for COVID treatments and vaccines that will help us return to something closer to normal. Until then, many college students will face difficult decisions that could impact their education and their future.

For those who do need to drop out of four-year programs, it might make sense to look for more affordable options that can help you continue your education. They include community colleges and apprenticeship programs. Free or inexpensive online classes through sites like Udemy, Coursera, Lynda and edX, among others, also can ensure that while you’re taking some time off, you’re still learning.

And finally, it’s important for all of us to remember to just breathe. Mindful magazine offers up five free mindfulness apps that can help to settle your mind and calm those anxieties during these difficult times.


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