COVID-19 Impacts University Enrollment

A recent Study found that the number of students enrolling in college immediately after high school plunged nearly 22% this past fall over last year. The future of education is a big discussion topic, as the pandemic is threatening the viability of education organizations and models. Key findings include:

  • Preliminary data shows little impact of COVID-19 on high school graduation in the school year 2019-2020.
  • However, far fewer graduates went to college immediately after high school this fall, declining by 21.7 percent compared to 2019 graduates.
  • COVID-19 impacted immediate college enrollments rates considerably for graduates of high poverty, low income, and urban high schools.
  • Public college enrollment among graduates of low-income high schools declined at disproportionately higher rates, revealing impediments to college access during COVID-19.

This Article form the L.A. Times summarizes key study findings. An interesting finding relates to graduation rates, as described by Heather Brown, a college counselor at Los Angeles High School, which serves mainly low-income Latino and Black students: “High school graduation rates may have been unaffected by the pandemic because many schools chose not to fail students last spring amid the abrupt shutdown of campuses and move to online learning. That may change this year, she said, as schools report handing out more Ds and Fs than usual.”

In a sign of growing inequality, some of these issues are tied to lack of digital access. Brown said: “many students could not overcome numerous enrollment barriers: they or family members contracted COVID-19, for instance. Some left the area in search of safer surroundings or cheaper housing, while others did not have laptops or hotspots to follow up with college paperwork or attend mandatory online orientations over the summer. Many chose to work instead.”

There are several interesting findings that provide signals for those looking to the future of education. A reimagined University Experience is one outcome that looks more likely – and COVID-19 is not the main driver.

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