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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

College students are learning less, partying less and a majority say the decision to return to campus was a bad decision, according to a new College Reaction/Axios poll.

Why it matters: The enthusiasm to forge something resembling a college experience has dissipated as online learning, lockdowns and a diminished social life has set in.

Now that the fall semester has started, 51% of students say it was not the right choice for their schools to allow students on campus. Just 3% say their school didn't allow students to return.

  • The dissatisfaction is more acute among those who have had to learn completely remotely, even if they are on campus. For those who have attended in-person classes, 59% say it was the right choice for campus to reopen, compared to just 42% for those who have not.
  • Removing many temptations of campus life has not made it easier to focus: 60% say they are learning less and just 6% say they're learning more.

What's going on: School administrators have tightened the screws on students to make sure that rule-defiers don't ruin things for everyone else.

  • After North Carolina and Michigan State (and Notre Dame, temporarily) made the call to move to online-only classes after August coronavirus outbreaks on campus, others have become even more strict in order to pull off a full semester.

Universities have threatened severe punishments for students who party and imposed strict lockdowns when cases emerge, determined to keep their campuses operating.

The polling shows that attending parties — or even having witnessing one — is associated with a higher chance of knowing someone who's contracted the coronavirus.

  • 12% say they've attended a party, and among them, 60% say they know someone who contracted the virus on campus. Compare that to the 38% who haven't partied and know someone who's gotten COVID-19 at school.
  • Among those who haven't even seen a party, the number who don't know someone who's contracted the virus drops to 23%. Meanwhile, 55% who have seen a party say they know someone who got sick.

The big picture: While there have been high-profile outbreaks in college towns accompanied by images of partying students, most students have engaged in less conspicuous social activities: 73% of students have either been to a party, bar or restaurant or gathered with friends mask-less.

Methodology: The poll was conducted September 15-16 from a representative sample of 808 college students with a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

College Reaction’s polling is conducted using a demographically representative panel of college students from around the country. The surveys are administered digitally and use college e-mail addresses as an authentication tool to ensure current enrollment in a four-year institution. The target for the general population sample was students currently enrolled in accredited 4-year institutions in the United States.

Go deeper

Nov 26, 2020 - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

Court rejects Trump campaign's appeal in Pennsylvania case

Photo: Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A federal appeals court on Friday unanimously rejected the Trump campaign's emergency appeal seeking to file a new lawsuit against Pennsylvania's election results, writing in a blistering ruling that the campaign's "claims have no merit."

Why it matters: It's another devastating blow to President Trump's sinking efforts to overturn the results of the election. Pennsylvania, which President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 80,000 votes, certified its results last week and is expected to award 20 electoral votes to Biden on Dec. 12.

Dave Lawler, author of World
18 mins ago - World

Belarus dictator Lukashenko says he'll leave post after new constitution

Photo: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty

Longtime Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said he will step down after a new constitution comes into force, according to Belarusian state media.

Why it matters: Lukashenko has faced three months of protests following a rigged election in August. He has promised to reform the constitution to reduce the near-absolute powers of the president, but has insisted that his strong hand is needed to see that process through.

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