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Higher Education

Americans Are Flocking to Online Education

By Henry Kronk
May 21, 2020

American higher education appears to be turning upside-down. Those who hold a degree or certificate are more likely to enroll in an academic or professional training program in the coming months than those who have yet to attain beyond a high school diploma. Among those who are considering more education, the most popular choice is non-academic online courses, training, or certifications.

That’s according to the Strada Education Network. The organization has been polling a nationally representative group about their changing lives and outlooks since the last week of March.

Their latest weekly poll, which is current through May 14, indicates that Americans are changing their education plans en masse. One in five between the ages of 18 and 64 say they recently have changed their education plans.

Roughly One-Third of Working Age Americans Have Canceled or Changed Their Education Plans

Besides the 20% who have changed their education plans, an additional 14% of those between ages 18 and 64 have simply canceled their education for the time being.

Among adults aged 18 to 24, the figures are even starker: 43% have changed their plans, and 22% have canceled.

“We’re seeing widespread changes in Americans’ education plans because of COVID-19, and young adults are especially likely to have canceled or otherwise changed their plans. At the same time, adults ages 25-44 who are not currently enrolled report they are just as likely as their younger peers to start a new program within the next six months,” said Dave Clayton, Senior Vice President at the Strada Center for Consumer Insights, in a statement. “These shifts, along with the interest in rapid skill development, have major implications for colleges, universities, and other providers seeking to serve workers and learners through this crisis.”

The path to higher education is rarely trouble-free and COVID-19 is only adding to the pressure. A year ago, most prospective students would be more concerned with paying for college, usually working a trivial part-time job or taking out costly student loans which can prove detrimental to a student’s overall credit score and financial health. However, the horizon has since transformed. Now, college has just become fraught with complexity and uncertainty over when and how to attend school amidst the pandemic panic.

Those Who Have a Degree or Credential Are More Likely to Enroll in a Program in the Coming Months

Perhaps even more striking is the fact that the group most likely to enroll in a new educational program in the coming months are those who have already attained a degree or certification.

Among those degree holders who plan to pursue further skills, the largest minority (at 16%) plan to enroll in non-academic online courses of some kind. This is followed by employer-provided training (14%), apprenticeships or internships (13%), and online-only university, college or community colleges (13%). 9% say they plan to attend a brick-and-mortar four year college program; 8% plan to go after an in-person community college degree.

The age of education seekers is also flipping. 35% of people aged 25 to 44 say they are likely to pursue further education. This is statistically similar to the 32% of those aged 18 to 24 who also plan to continue their studies.

These results are based on Strada’s polling of a nationally representative group of Americans. As of the latest survey, the sample numbers more than 8,000 individuals.

Featured Image: Scott Webb, Unsplash.