Key findings

Observations and analysis

All data is based on an online survey of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 17 and 25 commissioned by LendEDU and conducted by research firm Pollfish. All respondents were either current high school seniors from the graduating class of 2020 or current college students who plan to graduate in 2021 or later. The survey was conducted from June 1, 2020, to June 4, 2020. For some questions, the answer percentages may not add up to 100% exactly due to rounding.

Nearly 60% of committed high school seniors say coronavirus impacted their college choice

50% of our respondents were high school seniors from the graduating class of 2020, and 59% of them had already made a final decision and submitted a deposit to the college they will be attending starting in the fall 2020 semester.

But for many of them, the coronavirus pandemic and its impacts weighed heavily on what institution they ultimately committed to.


As the coronavirus pandemic simultaneously tightens finances and hinders the ability to travel, many high school seniors have had to sacrifice attending their top choice for college to commit to an institution that was either closer to home or more affordable.

And even still, almost half of this cohort say it’s possible they may not even enroll or try to defer their admission to the school they committed to if the coronavirus pandemic continues to keep colleges on shaky ground heading into the fall.


For example, 30% of this group of high school seniors indicated they would think about not enrolling or deferring their admission if learning remains online for the fall semester.

The above is a very real possibility as a number of colleges are preparing for a virtual fall semester. For example, the California State University system and Harvard Medical School have both already made the decision to remain online.

For undecided high school seniors, online college, community college or taking a gap year remain strong possibilities

Current high school seniors that have yet to financially commit to a college or university are working with a lot more flexibility. And according to our data, attending an online or community college next year is under consideration.

Or, many may simply take the year off to hopefully allow the coronavirus-induced uncertainty to subside.


Among undecided high school seniors, 43% indicated that they may take a gap year next year, while 41% are looking into online college, and 37% are considering community college instead of a traditional institution.

Interestingly, 56% of respondents that said they are considering online college also said they would have still considered online college before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile, 84% of seniors considering community college said they still would have thought about community college, and 68% of those pondering a gap year indicated a gap year was still a possibility before the pandemic.

For colleges, enrollment is the main driver of revenue and if this series of questions is any indicator, revenue could take a substantial hit come the fall as more students turn to less traditional options.

The University of Michigan is already projecting losses of up to $1 billion in 2020 due to demand being slashed by the coronavirus.

Current college students also weigh nontraditional options

To make matters even worse for higher education institutions, it’s not just high school seniors that are looking at other options like online college; current college students are also examining their alternatives for the 2020 fall semester.


For a lot of current college students, all options are on the table for next semester, and that is especially true if virtual learning continues.

For example, while only 9% of current college students are considering dropping out and enrolling in a community college, 13% are considering the same if their current schools keep on with online classes. And while 15% are looking into transferring to a more affordable or local college, 17% will do the same if virtual learning continues.

Finally, we asked all current college students if they think the coronavirus and its impacts will extend the time it takes them to graduate…


Over half of all college students now believe it will take them longer to graduate because of the coronavirus pandemic. On top of the mental impact this reality has, the financial impact could be crushing as this could mean taking on even more student loan debt to cover an extra semester or two.

But ultimately, the data from this survey seems to indicate that the colleges and universities themselves stand to lose the most in the wake of the pandemic as less traditional higher education options, like online college, become more competitive in attracting students.

Full survey results

All data is based on an online survey of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 17 and 25 commissioned by LendEDU and conducted by research firm Pollfish. All respondents were either current high school seniors from the graduating class of 2020 or current college students who plan to graduate in 2021 or later. The survey was conducted from June 1, 2020, to June 4, 2020. For some questions, the answer percentages may not add up to 100% exactly due to rounding.

1. Which of the following best describes your current situation?

  • 50% of respondents answered, “I just graduated or am about to graduate high school as part of the class of 2020 and have plans of attending college.”
  • 50% of respondents answered, “I am currently attending a four-year college and have plans to graduate in 2021 or later.”

2. (Asked only to current high school seniors) Have you already made a final decision on what college you will attend starting in fall 2020 and submitted your deposit to that school?

  • 59% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 31% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 10% of respondents answered, “I’d rather not say.”

3. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have already committed and sent a deposit to a college) Did the coronavirus and its impacts have an impact on the college you ultimately committed to and submitted a deposit for?

  • 20% of respondents answered, “Yes, I chose a more affordable college in terms of tuition, like a public in-state institution, even though it wasn’t originally my top choice.”
  • 15% of respondents answered, “Yes, I chose a college that is closer to home, even though it wasn’t originally my top choice.”
  • 10% of respondents answered, “Yes, I chose a college that was offering the most in financial aid or scholarships to limit the financial burden, even though it wasn’t originally my top choice.”
  • 3% of respondents answered, “Yes, I chose the college that clearly laid out their plans to manage the learning experience during the coronavirus, even though it wasn’t originally my top choice.”
  • 8% of respondents answered, “Yes, other”
  • 41% of respondents answered “No, the coronavirus and its impacts had no impact on the college I ultimately committed to.”
  • 3% of respondents answered, “Not sure, I’d rather not say”

4. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have already committed and sent a deposit to a college) If something changes between now and when it’s time to attend the college you committed to this upcoming fall, would you consider not enrolling or try deferring your admission?

  • 30% of respondents answered, “Yes, if all learning stays online.”
  • 11% of respondents answered, “Yes, if all learning DOES NOT stay online.”
  • 5% of respondents answered, “Yes, if there are no sports on campus.”
  • 3% of respondents answered, “Yes, other”
  • 43% of respondents answered, “No, I will be attending no matter what.”
  • 8% of respondents answered “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

5. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have not yet committed and submitted a deposit to any college) Will you consider attending an online college instead of a more traditional college in the fall 2020 semester due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 41% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 31% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 28% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

6. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have not yet committed and submitted a deposit to any college & answered “Yes” to Q5) Before the coronavirus and its impacts, would you ever have considered attending an online college?

  • 56% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 31% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 13% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

7. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have not yet committed and submitted a deposit to any college) Will you consider attending a community college instead of a more traditional college in the fall 2020 semester due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 37% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 34% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 29% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

8. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have not yet committed and submitted a deposit to any college & answered “Yes” to Q7) Before the coronavirus and its impacts, would you ever have considered attending a community college?

  • 84% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 11% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 5% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

9. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have not yet committed and submitted a deposit to any college) Will you consider taking a gap year and not enrolling in any type of college to start fall 2020 due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 43% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 29% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 28% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

10. (Asked only to current high school seniors who have not yet committed and submitted a deposit to any college & answered “Yes” to Q9) Before the coronavirus and its impacts, would you ever have considered taking a gap year?

  • 68% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 28% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 3% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

11. (Asked only to current college students) When your college classes moved online due to the coronavirus and its impacts, did you feel the resulting learning experience was adequate and worthwhile?

  • 42% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 48% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 9% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

12. (Asked only to current college students) Do you believe that you should receive a partial tuition refund to more accurately reflect the learning experience you received during the Spring 2020 because of the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 82% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 10% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 7% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

13. (Asked only to current college students) Would you consider joining a class-action lawsuit against your college if it does not partially refund the tuition you paid for the Spring 2020 semester?

  • 34% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 42% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 24% of respondents answered, “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

14. (Asked only to current college students) Are you considering transferring to a more affordable college, an in-state college, or a college closer to home for the 2020 fall semester due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 15% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 17% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school continues with virtual learning for the 2020 fall semester.”
  • 8% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school DOES NOT continue with virtual learning.”
  • 48% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 12% of respondents answered “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

15. (Asked only to current college students) Are you considering dropping out of your current college and enrolling in a community college for the 2020 fall semester due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 9% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 13% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school continues with virtual learning for the 2020 fall semester.”
  • 4% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school DOES NOT continue with virtual learning.”
  • 65% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 9% of respondents answered “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

16. (Asked only to current college students) Are you considering dropping out of your current college and enrolling in an online college for the 2020 fall semester due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 10% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 12% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school continues with virtual learning for the 2020 fall semester.”
  • 6% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school DOES NOT continue with virtual learning.”
  • 64% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 9% of respondents answered “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

17. (Asked only to current college students) Are you considering dropping out of your current college and taking time off for at least one semester due to the coronavirus and its impacts?

  • 14% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 15% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school continues with virtual learning for the 2020 fall semester.”
  • 5% of respondents answered, “Only if my current school DOES NOT continue with virtual learning.”
  • 59% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 7% of respondents answered “Not sure/I’d rather not say”

18. (Asked only to current college students) Ultimately, do you think the coronavirus and its impacts will extend the time you originally thought it would take you to graduate from college?

  • 52% of respondents answered, “Yes”
  • 36% of respondents answered, “No”
  • 12% of respondents answered “Not sure/I’d rather not say.”

Methodology

All data found within this report is based on a survey commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,000 Americans between the ages of 17 and 25 were surveyed. All respondents were also either current high school seniors from the graduating class of 2020 or current college students who plan to graduate in 2021 or later. The appropriate respondents were found via Pollfish’s age-filtering feature, in addition to a screener question. This survey was conducted from June 1, 2020, to June 4, 2020. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities.

See more of LendEDU’s Research

The post Coronavirus’ Impact on College: Nearly Half of Undecided High School Seniors Considering Online Degree or Gap Year appeared first on LendEDU.

About the Author

LendEDU

LendEDU

Syndicated Content

LendEDU was launched in August 2014 by Nate Matherson and Matt Lenhard. LendEDU is a website that helps consumers learn about and compare financial products, including student loans, personal loans, credit cards, insurance products, banking products, and more. Our goal is to help you make confident decisions. Our team of 14 full-time employees is based in Hoboken, NJ

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