Americans Cancel Education Plans

Millions of Americans are abandoning or altering their education plans in the face of the pandemic, according to Strada's ongoing survey.

April 30, 2020
 
Istockphoto.com/RomoloTavani

An estimated 28 million Americans have canceled their education plans due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an ongoing Strada Education Network survey. And nearly one in five Americans have changed their education plans.

"We expect this is a wide range of formal and informal education activities," Dave Clayton, senior vice president for consumer insights at Strada, said in an email. "As we prepare for economic downturn, everyone's wondering about the implications for education -- we don’t fully know the impact yet, but we're tracking this closely. What we do know so far, based on this survey and our historic surveys, is that Americans want to see direct career benefits from their education."

The longitudinal survey has wrapped up its fifth week and has garnered more than 5,000 responses. Each week Strada, an education and employment research nonprofit, asks respondents about their job security, income and general feelings of anxiety about the virus. It also includes questions on educational attainment and future education plans.

The number of Americans who intend to enroll in postsecondary education in the next five years has declined slightly since 2019, the survey report notes, from 53 percent to 49 percent. However, where they will enroll has changed. Fewer Americans are looking at programs through their employer and instead are turning to online programs, community colleges, trade programs and four-year colleges and universities.

The majority of Americans (59 percent) who intend to pursue additional education in the next six months prefer nondegree programs, including one or two courses for skills development, certificates or licenses, or courses for personal interest. Respondents are evenly split between hoping to upskill for a current career, reskill for a new career field or pursue personal interests.

"With the massive disruption we’ve seen to individuals’ work, we are observing an immediate desire to replace work and secure a job -- 64 percent of those who feel they would need education to replace a lost job would seek to change career fields," Clayton said.

The number of Americans feeling generally worried about the pandemic has hovered around 50 percent for the past few weeks, as did the number of Americans who worry their finances will be negatively impacted by the virus. Concerns about potential job loss went up slightly from last week, from 59 percent to 61 percent.

Past analyses have shown that people of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and are more likely to feel they need additional education if laid off. The survey also has revealed that six in 10 Americans have lost jobs, wages or income since the beginning of the pandemic.

This week’s results come from the April 22-23 survey. Next week, Strada will look at the existing data across industries where people are currently employed or seeking employment.

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