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Data: Strada Public Viewpoint: COVID-19 Work and Education Survey, 2020; Note: The exact wording for the first question was "Thinking about the education and training that will be provided by colleges and universities this Fall 2020 semester compared to Fall 2019, how would you rate the value of Fall 2020?"; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Traditional-age college students (18-24 years old) are more likely than their older peers to see college education as less valuable this fall compared to last fall, per survey data released this week by Strada Education Network.

Why it matters: College kids crave the in-person campus experience, and many didn't like the hasty move to remote learning in the spring, said Andrew Hanson, Strada director of research and insights.

  • The 18- to 24-year-old set also tends to downplay the risks of COVID-19.
  • Only 9% of this age group say they strongly agree that pursuing education puts them at risk of infection, compared with 17% of students 25 and older.

"What happened in the spring, when institutions just basically ported their lectures online, has been demonstrated to be a very subpar learning experience," Hanson said. "There's an opportunity to do something better than that, but so many people had that experience that they're just not interested in recreating it, especially not for the tuition they have to pay for it."

The other side: By contrast, college students 25 and older are somewhat less concerned about the online class experience and, in many cases, actually prefer it, Strada research has found.

  • That's likely because older adult learners are in school to gain specific skills, and the social aspect of college is less of a priority.

Between the lines: "Lots of media coverage around Gen Z is that they are basically living in virtual reality so we might expect them to have a strong preference for online learning," Hanson said.

  • "It turns out, they're just like everyone else — they want the human interaction of face-to-face learning. That seems to be more of a stage of life difference than a generational one."

The bottom line: Virtual learning is likely to be an enduring part of delivering education and training in the U.S., but different cohorts of learners will continue to have different preferences for just how much remote learning they're willing to pay for.

Go deeper

Teachers union wants funding transformation to fight systemic racism

Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty

Inequities in education funding require a hard look as students of color struggle with lack of access to high-quality education, National Education Association (NEA) president Becky Pringle said at a virtual Axios event Tuesday.

Why it matters: Systemic racism is embedded in the structures of American education, and it sets up a stark divide between white students and students of color, who often do not share access to the same resources.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Nov 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

America mortgages its future on school closures

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The decision by many U.S. states and cities to keep kids out of school because of COVID-19 will have crippling economic and health effects that could last for decades.

Why it matters: Evidence shows that children, especially younger kids, present a low risk for COVID-19 transmission and that remote education is no replacement for in-person schooling. By keeping schools closed — even as more risky activities are allowed to continue — the U.S. is kneecapping the next generation.

U.S. economy added 379,000 jobs in February

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The economy added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Why it matters: The first Biden-era jobs report shows hiring surged as coronavirus cases eased — though a full recovery remains far off. Economists expected the economy to add roughly 182,000 jobs last month, after adding a paltry 49,000 in January.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.