COVID-19 Pandemic Significantly Dampened Students’ Job Prospects and Future Earnings, Survey Finds

By Owen Daugherty, NASFAA Staff Reporter

While millions of Americans have lost jobs and faced economic hardship due to the ongoing pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, the global crisis has had an acute impact on college students in particular, in some cases delaying graduation and adversely affecting future career prospects and earnings, according to a new report.

Researchers from Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest public four-year institutions, surveyed approximately 1,500 undergraduate students at the school and painted a startling and grim picture of the economic and academic toll the pandemic has had on students.

Roughly 40% percent of respondents had lost a job, internship, or job offer due to COVID-19, 13% have had to delay their graduation, and nearly 30% expect to earn less at age 35 than they previously had thought. The survey was the basis for a working paper distributed this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Drill down past the topline numbers and the impact on low-income students is even more harrowing. Lower-income students, defined as those with parents whose incomes were below the $80,000 median of the survey, were 55% more likely to delay graduation than those from higher-income backgrounds. The pandemic has also nearly doubled the gap between higher- and lower-income students' expected GPAs, the report found.

Additionally, lower-income students were 41% more likely than their higher-income peers to change their major as a result of the pandemic. Furthermore, non-white students were 70% more likely than white students to change their majors due to the pandemic, and first-generation college students were 50% more likely to delay graduation than students who have parents with college degrees.

The report also found that a student’s health and financial disruptions from the pandemic were very likely to impact their decisions about school moving forward.

Enrolled students who also work reported a 31% decrease in wages and a 37% drop in weekly hours worked, on average. Notably, 61% of respondents said they had a family member that experienced a reduction in income.

The survey, conducted in late April, underscores the stark differences between different sets of students and sheds light on what could have been for students, had the pandemic not disrupted their studies.

“Because we collect information conditional on both states of the world (with the COVID-19 pandemic, and without) from each student, we can directly analyze how each student believes COVID-19 has impacted their current and future outcomes,” the authors wrote.

While the report did not lay out concrete examples for legislators, the authors noted that they hope the survey results will assist policy makers in preventing the pandemic “from widening existing achievement gaps in higher education.”


Publication Date: 6/24/2020

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