Parent Survey Reports One-Third of Students Changed College Plans

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By Mark Kantrowitz

September 21, 2020

One third of college-bound students changed their college plans this fall because of COVID-19, according to the annual survey of parents of college-age children by the College Savings Foundation. Survey respondents also overwhelmingly called for discounts on college tuition when colleges move all or some classes online.

Of the students who changed their career plans, 30% changed the type of college they planned on attending, from private colleges to public colleges and from 4-year colleges to community colleges. More than a quarter (26%) are taking a gap year. Many are changing their college plans to enroll in a less expensive college, because of health concerns or because of the financial impact of the pandemic on their family. 

See also: College Savings on Track Despite COVID-19

Most students will be taking some or all of their classes online, with 47% attending colleges that are completely online and 40% attending colleges with a hybrid of online and in-person classes. 

Most parents (89%) said that colleges should provide a tuition discount for online classes, especially if all classes are available only online. Parents are unwilling to pay full price for online learning, in part because students will miss the rest of the college experience. 

More than half of parents (53%) said that at least one parent had lost their job or had work hours reduced. Nearly 8% reported a loss of all sources of income. 

See also: How to Deal with a Job Loss Due to COVID-19

Almost a quarter (23%) of the parents said they are saving for college using 529 plans. More than a third (37%) of parents have some college savings “although not enough”.

A third of the parents said that their children had changed career plans due to the pandemic, with almost half inspired to pursue the health professions or public service. One-sixth are enrolling in a career, technical or trade program because of the lower cost. 

The survey was conducted during the first week of September 2020 by the College Savings Foundation, a Washington D.C. non-profit organization. Almost 1,000 parents of college-bound children responded to the survey. 

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