How COVID has disrupted high school graduates’ college plans

35% of high school graduates planning to attend college now say they are less excited to go
By: | June 25, 2020
A majority of class of 2020 hjgh school seniors headed to college this fall say they have concerns about how the coronavirus will impact academic quality and dorm life. (GettyImages/sdominick)A majority of class of 2020 high school seniors headed to college this fall say they have concerns about how the coronavirus will impact academic quality and dorm life. (GettyImages/sdominick)

Nearly half of graduating high school seniors in the class of 2020 says the coronavirus outbreak has changed their college plans for the coming school year, a new survey has found.

A third of those students say they plan to work or delay starting college, according to the survey by Junior Achievement and the PMI Educational Foundation. The survey’s findings also include:

  • Of the 40% of graduating seniors who work, nearly half say they or their families depend on their income for living expenses.
  • 40% say coronavirus has impacted their plans to pay for college.
  • 35% who are planning to attend college say they now are less excited to go.

A majority of the students surveyed also said they had concerns about how the coronavirus will impact academic quality and dorm life.


More from UB: What do students think of online learning? 2 surveys shed some light.


The survey was conducted earlier in the coronavirus outbreak, and some student sentiment may have changed since many colleges and universities have announced their reopening plans in recent weeks, says Ed Grocholski, senior vice president of Junior Achievemen.

Still, the remaining uncertainty could convince many graduates to stick with what they know, which is maintaining jobs that are now providing essential family income and perhaps taking community college courses closer to home, Grocholski says.

Administrators should, therefore, clearly communicate their plans for reopening—as well as any changes that occur—while also offering students more guidance on their financial aid options. That could include presenting lower-cost online options and restructuring loan packages.

“From our perspective, the biggest challenge is young people have a tendency to not make the connection between future potential income and the cost of college,” Grocholski says. “So they tend to overborrow.”


More from UB: Why managing risk—and panic—is key to keeping colleges open


Junior Achievement and the PMI Educational Foundation have launched two educational initiatives to support high school graduates in planning for the future.

The JA Economic Resources website is designed to help students and adults better understand economic information. Project Management 4 All is a new online game that introduces teens to the concepts of project management and planning.

“The economics are the underlying issue more than what that campus experience is going to look like,” he says. “Administrators should do everything they can to help students through the financial aid process so they understand the investment.”


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.