A USC study involving nearly 1,000 households found that students of color and low-income students are much more likely to say they expect to take fewer classes in the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, likely delaying their graduation from college.
Twenty-nine percent of Asian-American students, 24% of Latino students and 7% of Black students, along with 18% of the lowest-income students, expect to take a lighter course load when the new school year starts, compared with just 3% of white students, according to the latest findings from the Understanding Coronavirus in America Study conducted by the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research.
The researchers noted that the differences may be explained by large gaps in the impact of COVID-19 on students’ family care responsibilities, with Latino, Asian-American and low-income students far more likely to report increases in duties involving their families.
The study also found that 43% of Asian-Americans, 32% of Blacks and 30% of Latinos value a higher education more since the beginning of the pandemic, compared with just 11% of white students.
“We also learned from the survey that Americans who are less educated, people of color or from lower income households are far more likely to express fear about the health effects of the virus,” said USC researcher Anna Saavedra, a CESR education research scientist.
“Since 54% of college graduates have been able to limit their exposure to COVID-19 by teleworking during the pandemic, compared to 23% of those with a high school diploma but no college coursework, it’s possible the coronavirus has heightened the value of a college degree for both health and economic reasons,” she said.
The study also included an analysis of data on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on K-12 students, finding that more than half of lower-income families think schools should stay closed for the entire 2020-21 school year compared with 27% of families in the highest income bracket.
Half of the families surveyed reported that they were concerned or very concerned about the quality of the education their schools will deliver under full or partial distance learning, with greater concern cited among families of color and lower-income households.
The study’s results show that parents of K-12 children with household incomes below $50,000 believe they have a 22% chance of death if they become infected with COVID-19, compared with a 6% chance of death projected by parents in households with incomes above $150,000.
The nationally representative survey included 998 households with at least one individual currently enrolled in community college or an undergraduate or graduate four-year institution as of the 2019-20 school year, according to the researchers.
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