Although it feels like March was just yesterday and we were getting ready for spring break, August has finally come around and has brought with it a whole new kind of back-to-school stress. With some colleges and universities around the world attempting to return to their campuses in a few weeks amid the pandemic, CivicScience data explores the comfort of those most affected by their decisions.
Since so many college students like myself are itching to get back to their friends and their freedom, it’s somewhat surprising that over half of students, staff, and faculty – those of us most directly affected by returning to college campuses – are not comfortable at all returning this fall. Although 23% report being very comfortable returning to campuses. (Note that the data is rebased among those who go to college or work at a college.)
On the other hand, parents of college students, while they wouldn’t be directly affected, are similarly concerned as their children, with 59% not comfortable and only 22% very comfortable with their children returning to college campuses in the fall. (Note that the data is rebased among parents of college students.)
College students are generally ages 18 – 25 whereas staff and faculty tend to be older. Therefore, CivicScience data shows that students (adults under 25) are about 32% more likely to be very comfortable returning to campus this fall compared to staff and faculty (adults over 25), who are more likely to be uncomfortable.
CivicScience data also shows that levels of comfort may vary between mothers and fathers. Fathers are about 14% more likely than mothers to be very comfortable with their college-age children returning to college campuses. Mothers on the other hand are slightly more likely than fathers to be uncomfortable with the idea of their kids returning to school amid the pandemic.
Effects of the Pandemic
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and job market have been suffering over the past few months. Parents of college students who are concerned about the economy and jobs are much less likely to be comfortable with their children returning to college campuses, with only 13% of those very concerned about the economy and jobs being very comfortable. Fifty-six percent of parents not at all concerned would be very comfortable with their children returning to campus.
Students, staff, and faculty as well as parents of college students are all more likely to be comfortable returning to college campuses or having their children return to college campuses if they do not know anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. However, over half of people, for both students/staff/faculty and parents, respectively, are still uncomfortable even though they know no one who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
One of the major aspects of college (arguably the best) that is lost through online education is the social life. Therefore, it is unsurprising that students, staff, and faculty who enjoy being around people are about 64% more likely to be very comfortable returning to campus than those who are satisfied with being alone. With such extended periods of isolation from friends and family, the return to campuses is seen as a blessing to some and a non-negotiable for many.
Interestingly, the comfort of students, staff, and faculty returning to college campuses can also be attributed to their current happiness. Those who report being happy are significantly more likely to be very comfortable returning to campus (28%) compared to those who report being unhappy (2%). However, it is notable to add that almost half of those who are happy would still be uncomfortable returning to campus.
The main purpose of college, so they say, is to further one’s education. Therefore, it is surprising that the less interested students, staff, and faculty are in their ongoing education, the more likely they are to be very comfortable returning to campus in the fall. Those not interested in their ongoing education are over twice as likely to be very comfortable returning to college campuses than those passionate about their ongoing education. The continued use of online classes may be a contributing factor to this as the transition online last semester was not a pretty one and there was an obvious disparity in the quality of education, causing much outrage among students.
Students, staff, and faculty members are significantly concerned about returning to college campuses this fall, but so are our parents. Concern about the coronavirus pandemic as well as one’s personal values and happiness can be contributing factors, but overall everyone is still significantly concerned about the safety of themselves and their loved ones.