One in Four College Students May Delay Their Graduation Due to COVID-19; Majority Cite Emotional Well-Being as Greatest Challenge This Fall

Nearly two million college students (13 percent) at four-year institutions expect to delay their graduation because of COVID-19, and another 15 percent aren’t sure if they will.

INDIANAPOLIS —  Strada Education Network, a social impact organization dedicated to improving lives by forging pathways between education and employment, has released a new analysis of a nationally representative survey of more than 4,000 undergraduates currently enrolled at four-year colleges and universities to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their educational experience.

The analysis found that nearly two million students (13 percent) at four-year institutions expect they will have to push back their graduation due to the pandemic. Another 15 percent are unsure whether they will need to delay, indicating that as many as one in four may delay graduation. Almost three in ten (29 percent) of students reported that online instruction has made their ability to learn “much worse.”

Overall, students say their emotional well-being — as opposed to their academic performance — is their biggest challenge this fall. Three quarters report challenges with stress or anxiety this fall, and 44 percent say that the combination of stress, anxiety, and loneliness is their biggest challenge. Students are twice as likely to say these emotional well-being factors were their greatest challenge as compared to the next highest-ranked challenge of keeping up academically (21 percent). Emotional well-being challenges were also far ahead of cost concerns (14 percent) or even access to reliable internet or a computer (5 percent).

“Students are telling us that they are experiencing a full range of disruptions to their education, from quantifiable delays in graduation plans to subjectively more difficult learning environments and the very personal challenges of isolation and anxiety,” said Dr. Dave Clayton, who leads Strada’s Center for Consumer Insights. “As the pandemic persists, campus communities will need to go beyond the first order challenges of providing classes and develop effective solutions to connect students with faculty, staff and peers for the guidance and support they need to successfully adapt, persist and fully benefit from their education.”

The Strada Student Viewpoint survey was fielded by College Pulse from Sept. 10 to 25 as an online survey from a panel of undergraduate students enrolled at four-year institutions. The survey was designed and commissioned by Strada Education Network’s Center for Consumer Insights, a research team that studies the experiences and perceptions of American adults in order to inform the development of a more education consumer-centered learning ecosystem. Strada Center for Consumer Insights 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 Public Viewpoint findings at:


About Strada Education Network

Strada Education Network is a pioneering 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 create a new learning ecosystem that better serves the millions of Americans seeking to complete postsecondary education and training, gain clear value from those experiences, and build meaningful careers. Learn more at