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The impact of COVID-19 on student experiences and expectations: Evidence from a survey


  • Aucejo, Esteban M.
  • French, Jacob
  • Ugalde Araya, Maria Paola
  • Zafar, Basit


In order to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, we surveyed approximately 1500 students at one of the largest public institutions in the United States using an instrument designed to recover the causal impact of the pandemic on students' current and expected outcomes. Results show large negative effects across many dimensions. Due to COVID-19: 13% of students have delayed graduation, 40% have lost a job, internship, or job offer, and 29% expect to earn less at age 35. Moreover, these effects have been highly heterogeneous. One quarter of students increased their study time by more than 4 hours per week due to COVID-19, while another quarter decreased their study time by more than 5 hours per week. This heterogeneity often followed existing socioeconomic divides. Lower-income students are 55% more likely than their higher-income peers to have delayed graduation due to COVID-19. Finally, we show that the economic and health related shocks induced by COVID-19 vary systematically by socioeconomic factors and constitute key mediators in explaining the large (and heterogeneous) effects of the pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Aucejo, Esteban M. & French, Jacob & Ugalde Araya, Maria Paola & Zafar, Basit, 2020. "The impact of COVID-19 on student experiences and expectations: Evidence from a survey," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 191(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:191:y:2020:i:c:s0047272720301353
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104271

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; Higher education; Expectations; Survey;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality


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