A Window of Opportunity: New Report Examines the Long-Term Effects of the Pandemic on Postsecondary Education

February 11, 2022

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Title: The Pandemic Ripple Effect: Four Potential Long-Term Impacts on College Enrollment and Student Success

Source: EAB

A new white paper from EAB examines the long-term effects the COVID-19 pandemic might have on postsecondary education, focusing on four main areas: social disengagement, mental health, availability of transfers, and unfinished learning in K-12.

The authors of the report suggest that the collective experience of these changes, or “ripples,” could characterize the landscape of higher education for the next decade and beyond, as well as magnify the challenges that were already present on college campuses. However, they also claim that these ripple effects could lead to windows of opportunity to address the many barriers students face in their journey toward degree completion.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Student engagement and access to co-curricular activities, which contribute to higher graduation rates, fell short during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2021, Inside Higher Ed’s College Pulse survey notes that 73 percent of students shared that the component they missed most about life on campus was their “friends and social life.”
  • Seventy-five percent of students reported in an Active Minds survey that their mental health descended to some degree throughout the pandemic and has become a more pressing concern among college and university presidents.
  • Two-year institutions have faced the most significant declines in enrollment across sectors (down nearly 15 percent from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021), which can impact the future of the transfer student population and the transfer process for years to come. These enrollment challenges add another layer of complexity for colleges and universities to consider regarding current transfer practices, further adding to the already cumbersome landscape transfer students must navigate to obtain their degrees.
  • The issues experienced at the K-12 level during the COVID-19 pandemic will impact incoming college students. High school absenteeism doubled over the 2020-21 school year, directly influencing how academically prepared incoming college students may be.

The report also offers suggestions for institutions to consider in addressing the future implications of the ripple effects introduced by the pandemic, such as:

  • Building and expanding virtual communities through avenues such as social media to engage with and support students.
  • Incorporating mental health and well-being touchpoints throughout the curriculum and other co-curricular activities. By contributing to this effort, mental health concerns may become less stigmatized.
  • Asking faculty to get involved in the collaborative transfer process by assisting with the review of courses and working with partner institutions to align curricula. ACE recently released its newest tool, Effective Practices for Transfer Students, which provides additional effective practices that can be utilized to ease postsecondary transfer for students.

To read the full report, click here.

—Brianna C.J. Clark

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