Eduventures Releases New Research on the Effect of COVID-19 on High School Experience & College Choice

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Report and Webinar Detail Findings from a National Sample of High School Seniors and Provides Recommendations for Enrollment Teams

We feel that institutions must be prepared for scenarios with increased financial pressure on families. This means moving beyond the immediate communication and yield efforts into discussions of sustainable financial aid and pricing strategies that will assist families in the difficult time ahead.

ACT® | NRCCUA®, an educational data science and research organization, announced today the publication of the Eduventures Report on the Effects of COVID-19 on High School Students & College Choice. College-bound high school seniors across the country are experiencing an unprecedented disruption in their lives. They feel disconnected from friends, family, and educators. They’ve lost the important rituals of senior year. One of these central rites of passage, their choice of and transition to college, has been thrown into turmoil.

This study explores perspectives of high school seniors on how the pandemic will influence college choice and enrollment plans, and how institutions can help them make the best decision in lieu of in-person efforts. The research also reveals that reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic involve a complex interplay of regional infection severity and socio-political affiliations. This report provides both a geographic and demographic mapping of how reactions are shaping college plans across key segments of the U.S. college-bound student population. Some key findings include:

  • 1 in 4 students believe that the pandemic may cause them to change their college choice.
  • About half of students are worried that the pandemic may delay their enrollment.
  • About a third of students have already experienced a loss of family income.
  • Students are three times more concerned about losing out on key high school experiences than they are about having to change college plans.
  • Student whose enrollment decisions may be most impacted are more likely to be first generation, non-white, and/or reside in a county that leaned democratic in the 2016 presidential election.

The research is based on an Eduventures survey of over 7,100 high school seniors nationally conducted in March and April. It is designed as a complement to the Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students™, which examines how students make enrollment decisions and helps institutions improve yield.

The Eduventures research team will offer enrollment teams recommendations on how they can move forward with these findings in a webinar on Wednesday, April 15 at 2pm ET entitled “Effects of COVID-19 on High School Students and College Choice”. The webinar will explore the following seven data-driven recommendations for institutions:

  • 1. Concern is Evident, Be a Calming Voice for Families. Students are worried, but not necessarily panicking. The communication style that institutions adopt is critical; offer a steady and calming source of support and information for students.
  • 2. Put Students First. Acknowledge the loss that students are feeling, but do so within context. Colleges should make a concerted effort not to place their needs above those of students.
  • 3. Stay the Course on Message. Students worry about paying for college, or delaying enrollment, but changing their choice is not in the cards for many.
  • 4. Be Virtual Far Beyond the Visit. The virtual campus visit is not top-of-mind content for many students. Institutions should prioritize the virtual opportunities students care about most.
  • 5. Strike the Right Tone – Communicate with Your Communities in Appropriate Ways. Communications strategies should consider how the students, families, and communities they serve might be reacting to COVID-19 based on regional infection severity and socio-political affiliations.
  • 6. Supercharge Your Melt Strategies – Students Who Wouldn’t Normally Melt Will. The risk of melt is from delayed enrollment more so than currently changing choice; will choice change in the future, though?
  • 7. Develop Financial Aid Strategies for Students who have Experienced Economic Loss. Students who have already experienced job loss have a high expectation of delaying their college enrollment.

According to Kim Reid, Principal Analyst for Eduventures Research and primary author of this study,
“The greatest certainty in these uncertain times is that families are experiencing and will continue to experience financial instability. We may see some families rebound from initial losses, but we will see other families endure financial loss as layoffs move deeper into the economy.” Reid added, “We feel that institutions must be prepared for scenarios with increased financial pressure on families. This means moving beyond the immediate communication and yield efforts into discussions of sustainable financial aid and pricing strategies that will assist families in the difficult time ahead.”

Eduventures will next launch its annual Admitted Student Research in June. This research will gather further insight into the impact of COVID-19 on student enrollment decisions. Comparisons to prior year data will reveal changes in student behavior. Additional special topic questions will explore how students have reacted to the pressure on their decision.

The Eduventures Report on the Effects of COVID-19 on High School Students & College Choice will be available for download following the webinar at http://www.encoura.org.

About ACT | NRCCUA
The National Research Center for College and University Admissions™ (NRCCUA), a wholly owned subsidiary of ACT, is an educational data science and research organization serving over 2,000 member institutions comprised of public and private colleges and universities across the nation. Since 1972, NRCCUA has been a leading provider of data, technology, and programs serving students, high school educators, colleges and universities from its offices in Lee’s Summit, MO, Boston, MA, New York, NY, and Austin, TX. These solutions represent the link between students making important life decisions and those providing the resources and information they need to succeed in their post-secondary educations and careers. With the launch of Encoura™ Data Lab, the company now combines data science, advanced analytics, Eduventures research, predictive modeling and omnichannel enrollment services in one platform to enable institutions to make real-time strategic and operational decisions to meet their unique enrollment goals and create the highest probability of student success. For more information, visit https://encoura.org.

Members of the media who would like to speak to the author of this report or obtain a copy of the report can contact Ellen Slaby at eslaby@eduventures.com.

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Todd Boullion

Ellen Slaby
@EncouraEdu
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