By Nadia Ramligan, Tennessee Public News Service
Some 77% of Tennessee households with college plans say those plans have changed due to the pandemic, according to a new report.
The data show plans were more likely to change in households with members planning to work toward a certificate or associate degree.
Megan Fasules, assistant research professor at Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce, said she’s particularly worried about low-income students.
“There’s definitely a concern that this is going to be a profound change, because any time you interrupt college-going, you are less likely to complete,” Fasules explained. “That probably means a lot of these students aren’t going to complete their credentials, where they might have in a regular economy or pre-pandemic.”
Having at least some postsecondary education increases a person’s odds of finding a good job and earning more in their lifetime.
Fasules noted lower-income households are more likely to include people who completely canceled their plans to take classes, while higher-income household members went virtual.
To prevent further widening of the college attainment gap, Fasules suggested colleges need creative solutions to help low-income students stay enrolled.
She pointed out many workplace training and technical programs don’t translate well to an online or at-home format.
“We need to be able to [adapt such courses], and that’s something colleges and even beyond colleges could do to help low-income households,” Fasules urged.
Only 26% of households with a student planning to take occupational training reported they continued taking classes in a different format, and more than half said the student cancelled their plans.
Fasules added the unique nature of the coronavirus recession makes predicting education trends trickier, but she stressed more is at stake for low-income students, who are more likely to gain economic mobility with a degree.
“Usually, students substitute more education during recessions, so they’re entering during the bad labor economy,” Fasules outlined. “But with the health concerns and schools moving online, we’ve seen the opposite during this recession.”
Nationwide, the report found college plans have changed for 75% of households with students.
Those who didn’t cancel altogether changed the number of classes they took, enrolled in a different program or institution, or took classes in a different format.