Gauging students about paying for college, safety and support

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Nearly one-quarter of surveyed community college students said they had problems this spring paying for college due to the pandemic, according to a new report. Another 20% said they struggled to pay for college, but it wasn’t related to the pandemic.

The new report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas-Austin continues to gauge how the pandemic is affecting students, especially on their financial situation, ability to pay for college, and feelings of safety and support on campus. It is based on a survey administered this spring to 120,833 students at 273 colleges.

The pandemic seems to affect certain racial/ethnic groups’ ability to pay for college more than others. For example, 30% of more than 6,500 Asian students surveyed indicated they were struggling to pay for college as a result of Covid, followed by 29% of 16,230 Hispanic/Latino students and 26% of 10,170 Black students. For White students, 18% of more than 55,500 indicated difficulty paying for college due to Covid.

The percent of community college students saying their struggles to pay for college was not due to Covid was fairly similar across all groups, ranging from 17% for American Indian or Alaska Native students, to 20% for both Black/African-American and Hispanic/Latino students.

Keeping their distance

The center also examined how safe students feel on community college campuses, with significant differences among races. For example, nearly three-fourths (74%) of Black/African-American students said they agree/strongly agree that they tried to avoid situations on campus in which they could not stay six feet away from others. For Hispanic/Latino students, the figure was 63%, and for White students it was 53%.

The center also asked students if they knew whether their college offered them help to cope with stress related to Covid. Nearly half (49%) of students didn’t know, which is actually an improvement from fall 2020, when 57% said they didn’t know.

In the demographic breakdown, more White students didn’t know (51%) compared to other races. Black/African-American students had the lowest rate about the uncertainty of these services (44%).

There was also an interesting breakdown among race/ethnic groups when it came to knowing that their college did provide help: More Black/African-American students (49%) said their college did offer help than the other groups — 47% for students who are Asian, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian or Alaska Native. Among White students, it was 43%

The Trellis Foundation funded the report.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.