May 21, 2020 - Health

American Council on Education: 20% of students are uncertain of returning to college

screengrab of axios event

Kim Hart and Ted Mitchell. Photo: Axios

The coronavirus pandemic could reduce incoming student enrollment by up to 20%, Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education, said at a virtual Axios event on Thursday.

What Mitchell is saying: "When you look at current college students, there’s always attrition especially between freshman and sophomore year. So that’s usually around 8%-10% so add on top of that another 10%."

  • "Let’s look at it the other way around: About 80% of students say they plan on enrolling in the fall. They’re planning on enrolling in the same institution and continuing with their education. I think that students get it. Families get it."

The big picture: Colleges are being forced to innovate the way to teach students in a safer way, whether with virtual classes or social distancing in campus lecture halls. Smaller colleges, which sometimes do not have the resources or alumni donors of a public college, will be particularly challenged.

"It’s going to be an important moment for a range of institutions, some of whom will need to find good partners to be able to provide the robust online learning that, Kim, you and I are talking about now. Other institutions are going to be more creative about expanding who they think of as their students. A majority of college students today are not 18-22-year-olds. Colleges need to cater more to the lifelong learner, the adult learner. And certainly in this economy, individuals who need to train and resell for the next generation of jobs."
— Mitchell told Axios Cities Correspondent Kim Hart

The bottom line: Mitchell said summer and fall enrollments are"top of mind" for higher education. Many institutions count on student enrollment for a big chunk of revenue.

Watch the event

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