Although 30% of Black, Latinx and Asian American students said the COVID-19 pandemic boosted their perceived value of a college education (as opposed to 11% of White students), students of color and low-income students were more likely to take fewer classes in the fall, potentially delaying their graduation dates, according to the Understanding Coronavirus in America Study conducted by the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
The study surveyed 998 households that are home to at least one college-level student between April 29 and July 21. From those households, only 3% of White students planned to take fewer classes in the fall. In contrast, 29% of Asian American, 24% of Latinx, 7% of Black students and 18% of low-income students said they were planning for a smaller course load come fall.
Such findings are troubling, said Dominique Baker, assistant professor of Education Policy at Southern Methodist University’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development.
“The survey results suggest that students of color view higher education as a way to create more economic security and protection from the ravages of the pandemic,” said Baker, in a statement. “Reducing one’s course load makes it more likely that you will not complete, that it will take you longer to complete if you do, that you have to take out more student loan debt because of the extended time to degree, etc. Students of color are balancing additional responsibilities beyond school that will not allow them to focus on their coursework the way their peers may be able to.”
Those “additional responsibilities beyond school” could likely be familial responsibilities, such as child care or working a second job. Latinx, Asian American and low-income students were “far more likely” to report increased responsibilities as a result of COVID-19.