Three-fourths of students in bachelor’s degrees programs and two-thirds of adults seeking associate degrees who considered taking a break from college within the last six months cited emotional stress, according to a new Gallup-Lumina report.
The report also said that 44 percent of adults not currently enrolled in a college degree or certificate program have considered enrolling in the past two years.
The report is based on a survey of 11,227 U.S. adults conducted last fall and expands on a 2020 study of U.S. higher education “that found rising concerns among students about the shift from in-person to remote learning. That research confirmed the spread of COVID-19 had jeopardized student retention, with about half reporting the pandemic was ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to affect their enrollment,” according to a press release from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation.
The organizations surveyed students in 2021 about the risks of staying enrolled and the policies and programs that allowed them to continue their education. Students who’d left college without finishing or had never registered were also asked why they were not in college.
“Mental health was cited twice as often as the pandemic, the cost of college, or the difficulty of coursework as the reason college students had considered stopping out,” the press release stated.
The data on students who reported they considered stopping out are consistent with 2020 levels, when the pandemic led to steep declines in college enrollment, the report said.
“Enrollment has plunged alarmingly,” said Courtney Brown, Lumina’s vice president for impact and planning. “To reverse this trend, we must understand students’ perspectives, especially those of nontraditionally aged students. This includes what barriers they face and the practices that support them. This survey offers insights that can help us meet today’s students where they are.”