Students struggle to make a go of college during pandemic

Millions opt out of college plans due to pandemic

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - 16 million students around the country have cancelled plans to go to college. That’s according to a Census survey that shows the biggest reasons were fears of catching COVID-19 and no longer being able to afford college because the pandemic has put a financial strain on their families.

“There’s no doubt that that the impact of of COVID-19 is being felt across the board in public education,” said Gordon Stone, Executive Director of the Higher Education Partnership, who sees enrollment numbers at Alabama’s colleges and universities as less drastic than the nationwide outlook.

“Our enrollment numbers are down some but pretty steady at most of our four-year institutions, I think some of our two-year institution numbers that I’ve seen, are down a little bit more than the four-year,” Stone said.

The concern is what happens after a student drops out of college. History shows fewer than one in five ever go back.

“The fear we have is that people get out of the practice or the discipline of going to school, they just choose to say, well, let’s wait a year, let’s wait and wait two years. And then they don’t pursue that, they just don’t pursue it, they don’t get back in that pattern," Stone worried about the long term effects that can have on the whole state.

“We need to create the workforce that has as much opportunity for our economic developers to go out and recruit the best paying jobs that we can. And so having that educational level that’s increasing across our state, gives our economic developers more tools to go out and recruit those jobs that helped grow our economy,” explained Stone.

There is help for those who feel like they can’t afford college right now. Stone encourages students to reach out to their university’s admissions counselors and get in touch with financial aid offices to find out what tools are available.

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