Strada survey says millions of Americans are rethinking education plans

A new survey released by Indianapolis-based Strada Education Network says an estimated 28 million American adults have canceled their education plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strada, a national not-for-profit that aims to strengthen pathways between education and employment, has been analyzing the impact of the pandemic on Americans’ lives, work and education through weekly, nationally representative surveys.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 28 million American adults—11% of those aged 18 and older—have called off education plans ranging from formal degree programs to personal development, the survey said. Of those still considering education or training in the next six months, 59% are interested in non-degree programs, including certificates, certifications and courses for reskilling, upskilling or personal interests.

Each week, 1,000 Americans are surveyed for the Public Viewpoint survey, produced by Strada’s Center for Consumer Insights. To date, 5,000 people have been surveyed.

Findings to date, released Wednesday, include:

— 49% of Americans said they were likely to enroll in an education or training program within the next five years, compared to 53% in early 2019;

— Three out of five adults thinking about enrolling in an education or training program in the next six months say they plan to enroll in non-degree training, such as a certificate or select courses that would help them reskill or upskill;

— Of those considering enrolling in the next six months, Americans’ interests are evenly divided among reskilling (34%) to change career fields, upskilling (34%) to advance in their current field and pursuing personal interests (33%).

“In times of flux, Americans have frequently turned to education as a way to meet the challenges of a changing economy,” Dave Clayton, senior vice president at the Strada Center for Consumer Insights, said in written comments. “While COVID-19 has created unprecedented change to our lives and work, we do not yet know the full implications for education. Thus far, the majority of Americans who are considering more education are telling us they will look for immediate opportunities to develop their skills.”

Strada’s survey is one of several that have been conducted during the pandemic to track changes to students’ college plans.

In March, Baltimore-based higher education consultant firm Art & Science Group LLC conducted a nationwide poll of college-bound high school seniors regarding their plans for the fall. One in six respondents, or 17%, appeared close to giving up on the idea of attending a four-year college or university. Many said they would take a gap year or go part-time instead.

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