Though not a huge sample size, the latest report from Anthology on students and their views about returning to their colleges offers hope for institutions seeking to retain them.
Some 90% of the 1,100 undergraduates and graduate students in the study said they expect to re-enroll at their colleges and universities in the Spring of 2021 – 67% definitely will and 23% probably will – despite the financial implications and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only 3% said they definitely will not enroll.
In its Pandemic College Student Experience Survey, researchers noted, however, that despite the strong desire to return, a third of students said they were not happy with the academic course offerings and their institutions overall. The most notable shift from the previous Anthology report was students’ dissatisfaction of communications from their colleges, which jumped from 13% to 35%.
“As institutions look to put their best foot forward for the Spring semester, it’s imperative for them to understand students’ shifting sentiments and identify how to best meet their needs given the pandemic’s impacts on academics and campus life,” said Jim Milton, CEO of Anthology. “The survey findings clearly indicated that institutions can help improve student satisfaction by improving communication and helping them maintain a sense of connection to the campus, regardless of whether they are currently living on campus or thousands of miles away.”
Anthology’s study features a nice cross-section of respondents – 67% from public institutions and 29% private, as well as some part-time students and those from within various class levels. The majority of those surveyed were female and were in the 18-25 age range. Most are taking courses online, while only 3% say they are learning fully in person.
About a third of Anthology’s respondents noted a lack of faith in pandemic response plans, feeling that they “were too risky.” Still, half thought they were “just right”, an indication that perhaps while some students feel comfortable with strategies put in place by their institutions, other are not.
Two other significant findings from the study show the distress and hardships some are continuing to face that could impact their institutions in the future in areas of retention and student success.
- More than two-thirds of respondents said they are worried about potential costs of continuing their education. The numbers of those who were non-white students (70%) and first-generation students (77%) were even higher.
- More than a quarter of those polled said social support and the feeling of a true college experience was lacking. Students who were both living on campus or near campus were split nearly 50-50 on whether their institutions both provided a welcoming, comfortable environment for them.
Researchers noted several areas that colleges can improve to meet students’ needs, including: virtual counseling, mentoring, additional one-on-one experiences with faculty members and other campus-driven social events. They also must continue to be more forthcoming and transparent in their communications around COVID-19.