Staying engaged in class is the biggest coronavirus-related concern for college students, report finds

On Wednesday, the United States reported a record-breaking 102,831 new daily coronavirus cases, and the pandemic continues to impact the lives — and mental health — of college students across the country. 

According to a recent survey overseen by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators of 3,500 full-time students currently enrolled in four-year degree programs, the vast majority of college students are experiencing significant levels of anxiety. 

In the survey, 25% of students described feeling slightly anxious about Covid-19, 35% described feeling somewhat anxious and 21% described feeling very anxious. 

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NASPA CEO Kevin Kruger tells CNBC Make It that while reported anxiety among young people and adolescents has steadily increased over the past decade, remote learning is a significant cause for the elevated levels of stress this year. 

"The main takeaway here is students, not surprisingly, have been challenged by these last seven months," he says. "It's also highlighted the challenge that students have had in adjusting to either an entirely online or hybrid environment." 

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NASPA's survey found that staying engaged in class is the biggest concern for remote learners — even more than catching Covid-19 or getting a job after graduation. 

This finding is significant, given that many education experts have predicted that remote instruction will continue long after the pandemic subsides. 

"In the new world going forward, we're not going to go back to what it was like before. That probably means that collegiate education will be more hybrid than it was before the pandemic," says Kruger. "But I think this reinforces that students still want a live experience, they want to be in person. And this is not the end of brick-and-mortar institutions."

Kruger adds that the pandemic has exasperated existing inequalities in higher education, noting that low-income students, first-generation students, LGBTQ students and Black students have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

"Our most vulnerable students have been affected more significantly by the change in both instructional methodology as well as campus changes in general," he says. "For instance, our LGBTQ students are experiencing much higher levels of stress and anxiety. And we see students of color, particularly Black students, are more likely to use emergency services, around food insecurity or housing insecurity." 

He continues, "There are some really significant equity issues that are embedded in the way the pandemic is affecting college students."

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