Rapidly rising college costs over the last decade have made college planning difficult. This year, COVID-19 has brought new challenges and considerations to college students and their families.
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Funding challenges.According to the College Savings Foundation, 39 percent of the class of 2020 said economic uncertainty surrounding the pandemic will affect their decisions regarding higher education. In another survey by OneClass, 56 percent of 10,000 college freshmen, sophomores and juniors across the country said they can no longer afford their tuition. Seven percent of those surveyed had already unenrolled.1
Not only have market fluctuations impacted college savings account balances, many parents have needed to use college funds for everyday needs. Research by LendingTree found almost 40 percent of parents had tapped their children’s college fund to cover expenses due to pandemic-related economic pressures.2
Distancing dilemmas. As universities spread students out in dorms, some are telling upper-level students they no longer have rooms for them – meaning they must quickly find (virtually) their own housing. And as universities divide classes to allow more space between students, they may cut less popular programs.
Reduced opportunities. U.S. embassies and consulates have suspended routine visa processing; many countries have international travel restrictions, and commercial flights are limited. All this makes studying abroad difficult and means less diversity in classes.
Gap year option. Traditionally, some young people postpone college to build savings or decide what field to pursue. This year, concerns over the quality of their experience have even more students considering a gap year until the pandemic is under control.
Community college option. As students weigh the possibility of classes being moved online and potential risks of flying, attending a local, affordable community college for their first year has become more appealing.