Most incoming college students want face-to-face classes this fall: survey

Dive Brief:

  • A majority of prospective first-year college students, and their parents or guardians, would prefer upcoming fall classes be held fully face to face given the pandemic’s current state, according to a new survey from consulting firm Maguire Associates. 

  • Nearly half of transfer students want in-person instruction this fall, according to responses from more than 19,000 prospective first-year students and their parents and transfer students. 

  • Many institutions plan to hold face-to-face courses in the fall, though doing so hinges on large contingents of campus being vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Dive Insight:

Colleges are rolling out fall plans, and most signal a return to some degree of normalcy. Much of that depends on whether students and employees can get vaccinated against the coronavirus. Although the White House is requiring all states to make people 18 and older eligible for the vaccines by mid-April, one recent estimate indicates it will be months before most adults are inoculated.

A small but growing group of colleges are mandating students to get the vaccine in order to enroll in fall courses, with one of the latest being Duke University, in North Carolina. 

But some institutions are expected to have difficulty enforcing vaccine requirements as their states pass restrictions on such mandates. A new law in Utah forbids public colleges from requiring the vaccine for students and employees, and Texas’ governor issued an executive order barring state agencies and public and private entities that get public funds from asking for proof a person has received a vaccination that has been approved under an emergency use authorization.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted this type of authorization to all three vaccines being distributed in the U.S. 

Maguire Associates’ survey found 69% of prospective first-year students, and 73% of their parents, were either “comfortable” or “very comfortable,” with getting the vaccine. A smaller share of transfers, 56%, reported the same. The organization surveyed more than 21,000 people in all.

More than 85% of prospective first-year students said they would enroll in a college that requires the vaccine, while 74% of transfers said so, the survey found.

The vast majority of all three groups said they would want to enroll this fall, or would want their child to, if other coronavirus safety protocols are in place. Nearly all prospective students, and almost 90% of their parents and transfers, would still attend a college that requires masks on campus. 

The survey also offers a glimpse into the groups’ thoughts about online learning. Almost 80% of parents believed their first-time students were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with remote learning technology, but fewer than 70% of those students and transfers each reported they were.

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