Dec 18, 2020 - Health

College students wrap up a stress-filled COVID fall semester

Illustration of young seated woman with her head in her hands and a scribble bubble above her head
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Seven out of 10 college students have experienced anxiety, 53% have experienced depression and 29% have considered dropping out since the pandemic began, according to a new Generation Lab/Axios poll.

The big picture: The end is in sight, but students are still in for a cold, isolated second semester.

Students this fall had to decide whether a college experience largely stripped of football games, learning in classrooms and partying was worthwhile.

  • Despite the challenges, more than two-thirds said that it was at least somewhat worth the tuition, but nearly a third said it wasn't worth it.
  • In a separate study, however, three-quarters of nearly 4,000 survey respondents pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the fall semester rated the quality of their education highly in a new report from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation.

The Generation Lab polling shows that campuses have proven to be a less safe location than back at home. 13% of students say they contracted the coronavirus — a clip nearly 3x the broader U.S. population.

  • Since the pandemic began, more than 397,000 infections have occurred at more than 1,800 colleges and universities, according to a N.Y. Times survey.
  • This includes more than 6,600 college athletes, coaches and staff members who have tested positive.

The state of play: The thousands of U.S. colleges had to come up with their own systems to reopen for testing and contact tracing regiments, which was largely inefficient and shaky even after the fall semester began.

  • Many students still returned to college towns, rented off-campus housing and attended crowded gatherings, despite online only class offerings this fall.

The bottom line: The incoming spring semester could see more of the same challenges in educating and keeping students safe with serial testing.

  • Still, a majority of college leaders are recognizing the growing concern about the stressors on students’ mental health, according to the American Council on Education.

Methodology: The poll was conducted Dec. 14-16 from a representative sample of 1,036 college students nationwide from 2-year and 4-year schools. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

  • Generation Lab’s polling is conducted using a demographically representative panel of college students from around the country. The surveys are administered digitally.
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