Despite Slight Dip in Overall College Experience and Big Drop in Perceived Value, Students Likely to Return in Fall

Posted May 27, 2020

Brightspot Strategy’s new survey of college students shows how the impact of Covid-19 has impacted first-generation, low income and minority students in several academic, social and support areas​

New York, NY (May 26, 2020) – A new survey of students at four-year colleges by brightspot strategy, which works with colleges to transform their student experience by better connecting their people, programs, and places shows that students have a slightly less favorable view of their college experience after the Covid-19 outbreak, increasingly view their college as not worth the money but nonetheless are planning to return for fall classes.

The survey of 500 college students explores key findings including:

Overall Student Satisfaction - Nearly three-quarters (74%) of students are satisfied with their overall college experience, down only slightly from the 78% who reported being satisfied in brightspot’s 2018 Snapshot.

College Worth the Money - Perception of college value is down significantly, however as the percentage of students who think their education is “definitely” or “probably” not worth the cost has nearly doubled as a result of Covid-19. Only 15% of students said they thought their education was not worth the money before Covid-19, now 27% say it is not. And less than 40% of surveyed students say their college experience is currently worth the cost.

Plans for the Fall - Even with perceived value in decline, a full 81% of non-graduating students say they plan to return to their institutions for the fall, which is exactly the average retention rate in previous years. Adult learners (25+) say they are less likely than younger students to return in the fall, 67% to 88%.

Future Online Learning - Half of all students reported that the shift to online learning was a major challenge but that does not appear to be making much of a difference on their interest in studying online in the future. Nearly a third of all students (31%) say they are more likely to learn online in the future and the same portion (31%) say they are less likely to do so. About 20% of students say they affirmatively plan to study online, which is up from the approximately 15% who are already doing so according to NCES.

Campus Culture, Services - The new survey also makes clear that students are struggling with the change brought on by Covid-19, specifically around campus life and culture. The biggest challenge, the students reported, was "separation from friends" with 57% of students saying it was either “extremely challenging” or “very challenging.”

Further, while students rate academic programs as their top priority, “campus community” is second and it is also the aspect of college they view least positively right now. Only 65% rate their campus community experience as “good” or “very good” and just 53% of students are satisfied with their institution’s efforts to foster community and belonging during the crisis. Students indicating a desire to transfer for the fall were the only group that rated “campus community” above academics as a college priority.

“Since this crisis started, we’ve talked with more than 60 college leaders about what’s happening and what they can do to plan ahead,” said Elliot Felix, Founder and CEO of brightspot strategy. “We've been stressing the importance of looking ahead to 2030 so decisions for the fall put them on the path to success and how to reopen their campuses with care by thinking about their spaces, student services, and systems together.”

To download the report, please visit:


About brightspot strategy
For nearly a decade, brightspot strategy has reimagined higher education by working with more than 90 universities and colleges to transform their student experience by better connecting their people, programs, and places. To solve complex problems like enabling active learning, integrating student services, and accelerating innovation, their expert, interdisciplinary team brings an inclusive, participatory process that gets results. For more information visit: or follow us on Twitter @brightspotter or Linkedin.


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Alyssa Miller
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