Survey: Colleges can help allay students’ fear of returning

Many say they lack faith in their college or university health care facilities to provide quality care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By: | August 11, 2020
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Nearly one third of college students say they have concerns about safety in returning to campus amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent national survey.

The poll of 1,050 students done by personal finance website ValuePenguin.com notes that 31% of students fear they “won’t feel safe at all” while another 51% “will feel somewhat unsafe” at their college or university. Some 36% said they are concerned with contracting the virus.

For campus administrators and leaders, there were two important takeaways provided in the survey.

The majority of students did say they trust the essential information given to them by their schools (68%). However, the majority (78%) also have some of level of distrust with campus health care facilities to treat sick students.

“In my view, this speaks to a lack of awareness around on-campus health facilities as places where students can feel safe, get help and learn about good health, and this contributes to this lack of trust,” says Sterling Price, senior research analyst at ValuePenguin.com by LendingTree. “This is something that administrators could easily address with better communication with students.”

Price and the researchers at ValuePenguin highlighted a few of the areas of concern from those they polled, including overall campus safety, health insurance, living with roommates, social distancing and mental health:

Health care providers: One of the biggest sticking points among students for a completely safe return noted in the survey is the quality health care on campus. Only 22% say their college facilities will care for them well if they become sick. More than 1 in 5 students polled say they don’t trust their health care system at all. “Administrations should also pay attention to the misdiagnosis statistics we highlighted in the survey; it’s concerning that 11% of students had a misdiagnosis occur from an on-campus medical facility,” Price says.

Health care costs: Who would pay health insurance costs if a student contracts the virus? Less than a third of students surveyed say they actually understand their health care coverage. The majority of students (54%) say they rely on their parents to cover health insurance costs, while only 12% of students say their coverage was through their college and university. Some 17% get it through Medicaid.

Distancing/roommates: Participants who will share a dorm or apartment with a roommate were split on their comfort with the living arrangement: 30% were comfortable with it, 27% were not and nearly 23% say “it depends.” Just over a third (34%) distrust that other students will follow social distancing guidelines.

Yet, when it comes to gender, Price says his team noticed a few differences.

“Males (25%) were more likely to feel “very safe” about returning to college this fall when compared to females (12%). Additionally, males more than females are more likely to trust their fellow students to follow social distancing guidelines, 19% and 9% respectively.”

Despite the concerns, a return to campus is welcome news for a good percentage of those surveyed.

“One of 21% reported feeling lonely almost all of the time over the last two months, and 28% about half the time. Women have felt more lonely than men,” Price says.


Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for University Business. He can be reached at cburt@lrp.com