Should students gamble on college this fall?

A teen works on a laptop at a table.
Zoie Kruse, 18, is a graduating senior from Century High School in Rochester, Minn. Because of COVID-19, Kruse is now debating whether to take a gap year and delay her college plans of attending Monmouth College in Illinois as a chemistry major come fall semester.
Courtesy of Josie Kruse

It’s a rough time for colleges — especially traditional liberal arts institutions. Enrollment was declining even before the pandemic. This spring, most colleges sent students home for weeks of digital education. Some — like California State University, the nation’s largest public university system — have already announced an online-only fall semester.

But it’s an even rougher time for students. Many have complained that the online experience doesn’t warrant the same amount of tuition. Some have asked colleges for spring semester refunds. Others have sued. Understandably, a growing number of high school seniors are rethinking next year’s plans. Some are opting for more affordable schools. Interest in gap years has spiked. And 1 in 6 students who planned pre-pandemic to be full-time students at four-year colleges this fall say they no longer plan to do so — even though many had already put down a deposit.

Tuesday on MPR News with Kerri Miller, we aired the second of two shows about college in the time of COVID-19. Previously, we talked about how colleges are strategizing new ways of education and community experience. For this show, we focused on the students. Is this the moment for students to reconsider how much they spend on a college education?


  • Caroline Hoxby, economist at Stanford University and director of the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

Subscribe to the MPR News with Kerri Miller podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS.

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