There was an uproar in March when U.S. colleges and universities closed their campuses in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Students were asked to pack up quickly and leave.
Stories flooded news feeds about the struggles students faced. Some lost their on-campus jobs. Others lost access to dining halls and dormitories and didn’t have a safe home to go back to. As a result, they were forced into food and housing insecurity.
While still paying the same amount in tuition, students had to transition to online education, which, due to technology gaps, was more feasible for some than others.
Now, three months later, nearly seven in 10 students said they support the way their college or university responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey conducted by College Pulse in partnership with the Charles Koch Foundation.
The survey received responses from 5,000 full-time college students at 215 different U.S. colleges and universities.
“Overall, college students give their schools positive marks when it comes to their response to the coronavirus outbreak,” the authors wrote in their survey report. “Views among college students are fairly consistent across lines of race, gender and political affiliation.”
Seemingly, the majority of students understand that, for the sake of limiting the spread of the virus, institutions took necessary steps in closing campuses and transitioning to remote learning.
Moving forward, though, the majority of them suggested that online courses won’t suffice, particularly if they cost the same as in-person classes.
Students have a few primary reasons they go to college, according to the survey. First and foremost, they value college as a tool to help them gain knowledge and experience in a particular subject area and to help them receive the credentials they need to have a successful career.
In addition, they value it as a tool to expand their ideas and perspectives, develop their critical thinking skills and improve their social skills, among other things.
And most of them — 78 percent — believe that online learning is not as effective as traditional in-person teaching.
“Whether it is the acquisition of knowledge in a given subject, building specific skills, helping develop critical thinking or developing social skills, remote or online learning is viewed as a less effective method,” the authors wrote in the report.
No matter what their institution’s reopening plans are, only 9 percent of the students in the survey said they don’t plan on enrolling next year. But, 93 percent said that if their school is only offering distance learning options in the fall, students should receive a tuition discount.
At this point, less than two months before most institutions intend to start fall classes, the majority are leaning towards in-person instruction. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s tracker, which includes more than 1,000 colleges and universities, 63 percent are planning for in-person classes, 17 percent are proposing a hybrid model and 8 percent intend to be entirely online.
Many other schools, though, are still waiting to make a decision. And at the time of this article’s publishing, COVID cases are spiking across the country, particularly in southern states.
“Across the U.S. colleges and universities are grappling with public health and economic questions as they decide whether to bring students back to campus or over primarily online instruction in the fall,” the authors wrote in study. “As administrators weigh their options, it is important for them to know what students value in a college education.”
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.