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Poll Shows Fewer High School Seniors Going To College In The Fall


COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty in higher education for dorm life, tuition and online education.

Some of these questions were put to students nationwide by the Arts & Science Group, which is an independent group that advises universities.

Richard Hesel is the publisher and researcher of the student poll that is called ‘How COVID-19 Continues to Influence the Choices of College-Going Students’

The group polled 1,200 high school students around the country about their college plans for the fall, Hesel said, and 15 percent said they were deferring enrollment for another semester or another year.

“It’s dramatically different. This is a shock to the system,” Hesel said.

The drop in enrollment will have a major impact on the financial health higher education institutions, he said.

The biggest reason for the change is the fragility of the student's financial situation.

“In our latest survey, we found that 50 percent of the students that we surveyed said that their families had been financially affected by this crisis – either lost a job, was furloughed or took a cut in pay,” Hesel said.

Students are worried about whether their families can pay for college.

Hesel also found that 12 percent of students who have already paid a deposit for a university have decided not to go. 

“That’s a huge percentage,” he said, “[The numbers are] unprecedented. I think there hasn’t been a shock to higher education like this for as long as I can remember.”

But not all institutions are the same, he noted. Hesel said he talked to some institutions who have seen no drop in student enrollment and some that are very concerned about enrollment numbers.

In spite of the Art & Science Group poll, UNLV’s School of Hospitality, a field hit the hardest by COVID-19, is finding students are committed to staying in the program.

Marla Stafford is the executive associate dean of academic affairs at the Harrah College of Hospitality. She said they surveyed their students about their wellness and found that no one wants to leave the major.

“As a matter of fact, one stated 'we are hospitality – we will recover.' And I think that is what is permeating the hospitality industry and the students that are choosing to major and move forward in those careers,” she said.

Stafford said the students are excited about what they can bring to the future of an industry that is facing unprecedented changes.

“But I think they’re thinking of the role that they’ll play as the industry pivots in response to the pandemic. They will be the innovators who bring solutions to the table as the industry actually recovers,” she said.

Stafford said they've seen a slight dip in enrollment but the university has extended application deadline through July 1 and she expects more applications to come in during that time.

Brianna Avila will be a freshman at UNLV this fall in the hospitality program. She admitted it was a little scary to see the Las Vegas Strip shut down but she believes it will be back.

“I’m a big believer that after this pandemic people are going to want to go back and get out of the house and experience new things and I’m excited for that to be my job to find new ways to take care of people and really making sure their accommodations are there,” she said.

Avila said she's a people person and hospitality fits her personality. Some students at other schools have pushed back against paying full tuition for online classes, during the pandemic. But Avila says she wants to go to the best hospitality school in the country and if that means paying more - she's fine with it.

And she doesn't have a problem with online classes because they will ultimately protect the community.

“I love UNLV and my all-time goal is to graduate from there and I will take a semester off, a year off and stay at home and do my online classes. I’m willing to do it if it means we have a safe community at school when I return,” she said.

Richard Hesel, researcher and publisher, Arts & Science Group; Marla Stafford, Executive Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality; Brianna Avila, freshman, UNLV

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.