1 in 3 Adults Whose Education Plan Was Disrupted Have No Immediate Plans to Pursue Education and Training, New Study Finds

Strada Education Network’s latest survey finds that 32 percent of adults whose education plans were disrupted by COVID-19 are no longer enrolled or planning to enroll, up from 10 percent last spring
May 19, 2021

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INDIANAPOLIS — May 19, 2021 — Strada Education Network, a social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging pathways between education and employment, has released new findings from the nationally representative Public Viewpoint survey, which asks adults about their experience with education and work.  

The survey finds that more than one-third of U.S. adults have changed or canceled their education plans as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, with 15 percent of Americans canceling their plans and 22 percent delaying enrollment or making other changes. Many of those learners with disrupted plans, especially adults over 25, are no longer expecting to pursue additional education. One in three learners with plans disrupted by the pandemic are not enrolled in an education program, nor are they planning to enroll in the next six months.

“The belief that Americans would increasingly turn to education during the pandemic recession has not become a reality, and now we see eroding expectations about future enrollment,” said Dr. Dave Clayton, Senior Vice President of Strada’s Center for Education Consumer Insights. “We need to find solutions that provide individuals with great confidence that additional education and training will improve their lives and provide them with equitable opportunities to obtain the benefits.”

Americans’ motivations for changing or canceling their education plans in the first place vary. The top two reasons cited for changing or canceling plans were financial costs (34 percent) and needing to work (28 percent). Another 24 percent said they changed or canceled plans because they could not or did not want to attend an in-person setting. 

Young adults (65 percent), Latinos (61 percent), and Asian Americans (58 percent) are more likely than other adults to have had their education disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. This finding is consistent with new national data on college enrollment, which shows that younger undergraduates and Latinos have seen the biggest downward swing in enrollment.

Additional key findings from the Public Viewpoint survey include:

  • Among Americans who lost their job or otherwise saw their work change because of the pandemic, a third say they plan to enroll in an education program in the next six months. That makes them three times more likely to intend to enroll than Americans whose work stayed the same (32 percent vs. 9 percent).
  • The share of learners who had to change their education plans, but were still actively enrolled or intended to enroll within six months declined from 90 percent in spring 2020 to 68 percent in spring 2021.
  • Among the 35 percent of disrupted learners who aren’t enrolled but plan to in the next six months, their preferred options were non-traditional education and training providers. About 26 percent said they were planning to pursue an employer-based learning option, 25 percent an online non-college learning option, and 19 percent an online-only college.

The new Public Viewpoint findings are based on web surveys conducted from February-April 2021. The survey was designed and commissioned by Strada Education Network’s Center for Education Consumer Insights, a research team that studies the experiences and perceptions of American adults in order to inform the development of a more learner-centered ecosystem. The center provides the nation’s largest education consumer database, which includes more than 350,000 completed surveys about the education and work experiences of American adults. View the full findings from this survey and past surveys at: https://www.stradaeducation.org/publicviewpoint/

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About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a new kind of social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging clearer and more purposeful pathways between education and employment. Our approach combines innovative research, thought leadership, strategic philanthropy, mission-aligned investments and a network of affiliate organizations. Together, we work to better serve the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.

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