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The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Experiences and Expectations: Evidence from a Survey


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


In order to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, we surveyed approximately 1,500 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% lost a job, internship, or a 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 to have delayed graduation due to COVID-19 than their higher-income peers. 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.

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  • Esteban M. Aucejo & Jacob F. French & Maria Paola Ugalde Araya & Basit Zafar, 2020. "The Impact of COVID-19 on Student Experiences and Expectations: Evidence from a Survey," NBER Working Papers 27392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27392
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    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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