One in 10 college students in a recent survey aren't certain they'll return to school in the fall or have already decided not to attend because of the coronavirus.
However, a majority of students intend to reenroll, according to the survey from the American Council on Education (ACE) and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).
Administrators fear the virus has caused so much economic turmoil that students will elect not to pursue college, further stressing some institutions' already precarious budgets.
As the coronavirus spread in the U.S., colleges wound down most of their campus-based operations, which included scrapping large-scale recruitment events designed to woo admitted students.
On top of not being able to employ their typical face-to-face admissions tactics, administrators have been stressed that the financial fallout from the pandemic will prevent students and their families from affording college. A separate ACE study found that for 86% of college presidents, summer and fall enrollment was the most pressing concern related to the coronavirus.
However, the ACE/AACRAO survey of more than 2,000 enrolled students offers some hope for officials, as more than 80% of those students reported they intend to come back to school in the fall.
Of the students who plan to reenroll, more than 90% said they will stay at their current institution.
While a subset of students aren't yet confident in their college plans, only 2% said the coronavirus has definitively put them off returning to school, the survey found. A similar share reported they are reenrolling in the fall to make up for classes they didn't finish because of the virus.
About two-thirds of students said they will be able to complete all their courses in the spring term. Just 5% said they will not be able to complete any of their classes. Most colleges have moved instruction online for the spring term, forcing some officials to scramble to set up a digital infrastructure robust enough to handle the surge in activity.
While institutions have largely been praised for such a rapid transition, the process hasn't been universally smooth. Some students dissatisfied with the quality of online instruction have sued their colleges for tuition refunds, with two of the latest targets being Columbia University and Pace University, both in New York City. Legal experts told Education Dive that lawsuits seeking tuition returns are unlikely to succeed.
In ACE's survey of presidents, only 8% of the 192 executives said they already refunded some tuition and a similar share said they planned to. The vast majority reported they had neither done so nor anticipated such a move.