Most Teens Say the Pandemic Hurt Their College Fund

Hispanic college student does homework with laptop.
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A majority of Black and Hispanic teenagers say the pandemic has affected how they’ll pay for college, while nearly half of White students say the same, according to a new study.

COVID-19 has changed the financial equation for 60% of Black, 59% of Hispanic, and 45% of White high school juniors and seniors, according to the Junior Achievement Teens and Personal Finance Survey conducted earlier this year. The pandemic also forced 25% of those who graduated from high school last year to delay going to college, with 12% of current high school juniors and seniors saying they, too, would hold off their college plans.

Most of the teens said they expected their families to pay for at least part of their college education—72% of the Class of 2020 and 81% of current juniors and seniors—but the pandemic changed things for many of these families. Of those expecting their families to chip in, 37% in last year’s graduating class and 43% of current high school juniors and seniors said that financial support has been cut back due to the pandemic.

The survey shows the potential long-term costs of the pandemic, which has left many Americans feeling a financial crunch. Students who delay college enrollment are less likely to complete college and they tend to earn less over a lifetime, according to studies. The question of how to pay for college is growing in importance: Student debt in the U.S. increased 500% between 2004 and 2020. Some legislators, seeking a solution, have proposed simply erasing some of that debt.

Wakefield Research conducted the survey online from Feb. 26 to March 8, with a nationally representative sample of 2,000 U.S. teens aged 13-19 who are not currently enrolled in college and 500 students who graduated from high school in 2020.