AACRAO, ACE Survey Finds Uncertainty About Current College Student Fall Enrollment Plans, Optimism About Completing Spring Coursework
April 23, 2020

A national survey administered to more than 2,000 currently enrolled U.S. college students finds that nearly one in five are uncertain about their plans for re-enrolling in the fall, or definitely are not going at all. However, 82 percent of students say they will be able to complete all or most of their spring coursework as planned, while just 5 percent indicated they will not be able to complete any courses as planned.

The survey, conducted during March and April, was commissioned by the American Council on Education (ACE) and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) as part of a forthcoming white paper for ACE's National Task Force on Transfer of Credit.

As the above infographic shows, asked about how COVID-19 is impacting fall enrollment plans, a total of 12 percent are uncertain or no longer plan to enroll at all. Meanwhile, an additional three percent say they are planning to enroll in the fall to make up classes not completed in the spring due to COVID-19, meaning it is not clear those students are planning to fully re-enroll. Finally, three percent say they were not planning to enroll previously and that has not changed.

All that totals 17 percent of students who are uncertain or definitely not returning, a mixed picture for institutions already suffering significant financial losses due to the pandemic and adding to a very uncertain portrait of what fall enrollment might look like.

These findings are relatively consistent with other surveys completed on prospective college students. For instance, Inside Higher Ed reported on a number of similar surveys, noting that among them, a Maguire Associates survey found 12 percent of prospective students indicated they are considering delaying enrollment to spring or fall 2021, and a Primacy survey found that 29 percent strongly or somewhat agree that “I have considered deferring attending college until COVID-19 passes." Another example cited in that story, a survey by the Art & Science Group, found that 17 percent of high school seniors indicated they definitely or likely will change their plans to attend a four-year institution in the fall, instead planning to take a gap year or enroll in a program part time.