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Students’ Self-Reported COVID-19 Rates Reveal Disparities

August 4, 2021

A research brief from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University found that nearly 7 percent of students self-reported that they had COVID-19. The study estimates that 1.4 million college students may have been infected with the coronavirus since January 2020.

The brief, which Hope Center researchers believe may be the first study on inequities in self-reported COVID-19 infections among students, was based on an analysis of a fall 2020 survey of more than 100,000 students at 202 institutions in 42 states. It highlights racial and socioeconomic disparities among students who said they were infected by the virus.

Students of color reported having been sick with COVID-19 at higher rates; 14 percent of Indigenous students, 10 percent of Latinx students and 7 percent of Black students said they believed they had caught the virus compared to 6 percent of white students. Pell Grant recipients also had a self-reported infection rate higher than their peers -- 8 percent compared to 6 percent. Students who reported contracting COVID-19 were more likely to experience anxiety, depression and food insecurity, according to the brief.

The brief recommends colleges and universities ask students to self-report COVID-19 cases in order to inform the institutions’ outreach to students, repeatedly communicate how students can access resources if they become sick and track how infections affect their academic performance, campus engagement and well-being. It also suggests institutions make mental health supports widely available.

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Sara Weissman

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