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COVID-19 Pandemic Disproportionately Caused Black And Latino Students To Cancel College Plans, Report Says

Delays in attaining a high education have a ‘negative cascading effect’ across a lifetime, researchers say.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced students of color disproportionately to cancel their plans to pursue their post-secondary education, according to a new study by the Latino Policy & Politics Initiative at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Almost a third of Black and Latino students canceled their higher education plans at a much higher rate than white students, 2020 data analyzed from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey showed.

Delays in attaining higher education have a “negative cascading effect” across a lifetime, the researchers warned.

“Students who are forced to delay their college plans are less likely to complete that degree, and face additional challenges to school reentry the longer they must delay,” the report stated. “Taking additional time to graduate college also creates durable negative effects on salary and expected earnings after graduation.”

Before COVID-19 vaccines were available, about 10 percent of Black students planned to cancel their college plans, compared to 6.4 percent of the total population. Almost 11 percent of Latinos planned to cancel their high education plans – nearly double the total population rate. White (5.4 percent) and Asian (5.5 percent) students had the lowest rates, both below the total population rate.

The availability of vaccines reduced by more than half the percentage of students who planned to cancel their post-secondary education. That decline was seen across all racial and ethnic lines. However, the racial disparity remained despite the overall reductions.

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But there’s a specific reason so many students decided to cancel their college plans: financial hardship at the height of the pandemic, the researchers discovered. Almost 45 percent of Black and Latino students pointed to reduced income as the cause, compared to 38 percent of white students. But the vaccine rollout had almost no impact on those rates.

“The educational disparities reported in this factsheet, while spurred by COVID-19, reflect and perpetuate the structural barriers that continue to limit opportunities for communities of color to use higher education as a pathway to social and economic security,” the researchers stated.

The report calls for an increase in federal and institutional support to eliminate “systemic inequalities” that hinder students of color.

“A plan for post-COVID recovery at the university level cannot stop at a ‘return to campus,’ but rather in a deepened commitment to economic redistribution and opportunity for its most vulnerable students,” the researchers added.

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