August 3, 2021
Nearly 7 percent of college students who participated in a national survey said they had been “sick with Covid” during or since spring 2020. Self-reported infection rates were higher among racial and ethnic minorities than among white students. And those who self-reported contracting the virus were more likely than others to have experienced food insecurity, anxiety, and depression.
Those findings appear in a new research brief from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University. The study, apparently the first to examine how being infected with Covid-19 affected college students, was based on a fall 2020 survey of more than 100,000 students at 202 institutions in 42 states.
The data fill a gap in higher education’s understanding of Covid-19’s impact. Most colleges don’t know who among their students have been infected, the report says, “or how infections affect students’ health and well-being.” Subgroups of students who, in general, are likely to struggle in college reported higher rates of infection than some of their peers: working students, students with children, and those receiving federal Pell Grants.
College leaders must do more to identify and support students who’ve had the virus, which even months later can hinder their performance inside and outside the classroom, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, president and founder of the Hope Center and a co-author of the report: “Institutions are really worried about their enrollment. I hope that they own the fact that they have a role to play in whether these students stay or go.”
In an interview with The Chronicle, Goldrick-Rab, a professor of sociology and medicine at Temple, discussed the survey findings — and the implications for colleges preparing for an uncertain fall semester.