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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than 90% of college students say they should pay less in tuition if schools are only offering online classes, per a College Pulse survey of 5,000 full-time undergraduate college students across 215 universities.

Why it matters: Higher education institutions across the country are planning to rely heavily on remote learning this fall as the nation continues to grapple with COVID-19.

  • "Students are smart enough to know that if they are getting courses online, the cost to offer those courses should go down — they want a better deal for their dollar," said Ryan Stowers, executive director of the Charles Koch Foundation, which commissioned the survey.

Where it stands: Overall, students gave positive reviews to their colleges' response to the coronavirus outbreak, with close to seven in 10 students saying their schools did an excellent or good job.

  • Yes, but: Most students were more negative about how well their professors adapted to online learning, with 54% of students saying faculty did not handle the transition well.

By the numbers: Students overwhelmingly said online classes are less effective than in-person classes in helping students develop social skills (89%) and critical thinking skills (62%).

  • 73% say online learning is less effective than in-person instruction in helping students develop specific skills — even though that's an area where online classes are expected to excel.
  • Distance learning is also seen as negatively disrupting other aspects of campus life, such as participating in extracurricular activities (69%), developing close friendships (62%), and feeling like they are part of a larger campus community (55%).

The other side: There is room for optimism. The majority of students (63%) say online learning could be improved with better technology platforms. Those with more experience taking online courses have better views of them than students who have not taken them.

  • Interestingly, while most students (55%) say improving distance learning should be a high priority for colleges, it's not seen as the highest priority.
  • Instead, students want their colleges to find new ways to help them secure internship and job opportunities; eliminate the need to buy expensive textbooks; provide better mentorship opportunities; and provide more resources to help choose majors and classes.

Between the lines: Generally, students are more anxious about the value of the credential they receive from an institution than their overall college experience during the pandemic. This suggests a heightened concern about finding jobs after graduation and having the skills and critical thinking abilities that employers want.

  • "When you put all these factors together, the most pressing questions for students are, am I going to be able to get a job or afford textbooks?" said College Pulse co-founder Terren Klein. "In other words, does this even make sense financially for me?"

The bottom line: Students and parents paying tuition bills have extra leverage right now as they weigh what schools are worth paying for, or if it's even worth returning to college at all until the pandemic is under control.

  • That means higher education leaders have to innovate quickly, experiment with different hybrid approaches and meet students' preferences and expectations.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Sep 30, 2020 - Health

COVID-19 cases on the rise among U.S. children

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

An increasing number of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children across the U.S. throughout September may be linked to school reopenings and other community activities resuming.

Driving the news: The American Academy of Pediatrics reported this week that children of all ages make up 10% of U.S cases, up from 2% in April, per AP. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted more than 435,000 cases among children ages 0–17, and 93 deaths.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Podcasts

Net neutrality on the line under Biden

Federal net neutrality rules are back on the table in the Biden administration, after being nixed by Trump, but now might be complicated by the debate over social media companies' behavior.

Axios Re:Cap digs into why net neutrality matters and what comes next with Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge and host of the Decoder podcast.

House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.