Press Release

Unemployment, Food Insecurity, Digital Divide Hitting College Students Hard According to National Survey
Course Hero’s annual survey of more than 11,000 college students offers troubling evidence of food, housing insecurity; 40% of learners are shifting their education plans amidst persistent digital divide

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF. (MARCH 18, 2021) — College students face continued economic hardship as a result of the pandemic, according to a national survey of more than 11,000 full and part-time students released today by Course Hero. As a result, six percent of students report leaving higher education altogether. The data give cause for concern about college dropout rates in an era where 60% of students work full- or part-time and first-year enrollment has declined 13% since October 2019.

According to the survey, fielded one year after Course Hero’s inaugural survey of student emergency needs, the challenge of paying for internet access and computer equipment has actually grown since last March. More than 60 percent of respondents now report that food and rent remain their top two financial needs. 

“This research underscores the extent to which students are struggling with basic financial needs. That was true before the pandemic, and now the problem is significantly exacerbated,” said Andrew Grauer, CEO and co-founder of Course Hero. “These findings serve as a wake-up call when it comes to addressing the new majority of learners who are balancing their educational aspirations with work and family obligations. No student should need to decide between college and the cost of living.”

Other findings from Course Hero’s “Coronavirus and the Cost of College” survey include:

  • 28% of students report job loss, with nearly one quarter (22%) of students receiving unemployment benefits.
  • Just half (56%) of students believe they are getting their money’s worth from college, as remote learning continues to dominate the higher education experience. White students were twice as likely to question the value of college than Black or Latinx students.
  • Community college students are least likely to question the value of their education. Students enrolled in four-year degree programs were more likely to question the value of their college education than students enrolled in community colleges.         
  • Despite ongoing concerns about value, just 18% of students report receiving discounts on tuition.
  • Forty percent of students are changing their educational or career plans as a result of the pandemic. Sixteen percent of students reported a change in their course of study and an equal percentage reported a change in their career plans.
  • Seven percent of students reported changing institutions – and 6% have left higher education completely.

As a part of Course Hero’s ongoing efforts to support student emergency needs, the company is partnering with The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University to support their #RealCollege Virtual Journey program addressing basic needs insecurity in higher education. The Hope Center for College’s Virtual Journey kicks off on Wednesday, March 31 with The Hope Center’s President & Founder Sara Goldrick-Rab hosting a discussion of their #RealCollege survey report to be released that day.

Course Hero’s emergency needs survey was conducted through an email questionnaire issued to more than 1 million student subscribers, with responses compiled between February 16 and February 22, 2021. The research is part of Course Hero’s newly launched Research Hub, a resource for data and insights on higher education sourced from its community of millions of students and more than 60,000 verified educators. Discover additional insights on students and educators in higher education here.

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About Course Hero

Course Hero is on a mission to help students graduate confident and prepared. The online learning platform offers over 60 million course-specific study resources created by and for students and educators, as well as 24/7 tutor help. More than 60,000 college faculty use Course Hero to share their resources with the community, collaborate with other faculty, and hone new strategies for instruction. The range of learning materials includes practice problems, study guides, textbook solutions, videos, class notes, and step-by-step explanations for every subject, helping students make every study hour count.


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