NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

New Report on the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Undergraduate Student Experiences in Spring 2020

NCES recently released a report on the experiences of undergraduate students early in the COVID-19 pandemic. The report uses early release data from the 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20) to describe how the pandemic disrupted students’ enrollment, housing, and finances in the spring of 2020. It also discusses how institutions helped students with these issues.

NPSAS:20 student surveys started in March 2020, and items about the COVID-19 pandemic were added in April 2020 to collect information about the effects of the pandemic on students’ educational experiences between January 1 and June 30, 2020. These early release data do not include students who answered before the pandemic questions were added. The data show that 87 percent of students had their enrollment disrupted or changed during this time. Students who experienced disruptions may have withdrawn or taken a leave of absence, had an extended school break, had changes made to their study-abroad program, or had classes cancelled or moved online.

Twenty-eight percent of students had a housing disruption or change, and 40 percent had a financial disruption or change. Students who had a housing disruption had to move or had difficulty finding safe and stable housing. Students who had a financial disruption may have lost a job or income or may have had difficulty getting food; they may have also received financial help from their postsecondary institutions.

The report also provides information about the experiences of students with different characteristics. For example, students with Pell Grants had a similar rate of enrollment disruption (87 percent) as those without them (88 percent). Those with Pell Grants had a lower rate of housing disruption (23 percent) than those without them (31 percent). However, they had a higher rate of financial disruption (48 percent) than their peers without Pell Grants (34 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of undergraduates who experienced enrollment, housing, or financial disruptions or changes at their institution due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by Pell Grant recipient status: Spring 2020

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20, preliminary data).


The final NPSAS:20 raw data will be available in late 2022. Sign up for the IES Newsflash to receive announcements about NCES data products.

 

By Tracy Hunt-White

Students’ Internet Access Before and During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Household Socioeconomic Status

The pandemic has focused attention on the resources needed for students to engage equitably in educational opportunities, particularly during remote learning. While access to computers and the internet were important to education prior to the pandemic—as tools for word processing, research, and communication after school hours, or even as the primary means of schooling—they became essential tools for students to remain engaged during the 2020–21 academic year. Reflecting this importance both before and during the pandemic, recent NCES blogs have highlighted data on virtual schools and geographic differences in digital access. This blog presents additional insight on these topics from the Condition of Education 2021. Specifically, it highlights patterns of inequity in access to educational technology by socioeconomic status, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the Coronavirus Pandemic

According to the American Community Survey (ACS),1 the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. For instance, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those whose parents had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree (99 percent) and lowest for those whose parents had less than a high school credential (83 percent) (figure 1).

Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. Specifically, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those in families in the highest income quarter (99 percent) and lowest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (89 percent) (figure 1).2


Figure 1. Percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and home internet access only through a smartphone, by parental education and family income quarter: 2019

1 Includes those who completed high school through equivalency credentials, such as the GED.
NOTE: Includes only 3- to 18-year-olds living in households (respondents living in group quarters such as shelters, healthcare facilities, or correctional facilities were not asked about internet access). Includes 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 702.12.


While internet access is nearly universal in the United States (95 percent of all 3- to 18-year-olds had access in 2019), not all families access the internet the same way. Specifically, 88 percent had access through a computer,3 and 6 percent relied on a smartphone for their home internet access.4,5

In 2019, the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. For instance, the percentage who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access was lowest for those in families in the highest income quarter (1 percent) and highest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (14 percent) (figure 1).

Taken together with the patterns for overall home internet access, these findings reveal that access only through a smartphone is generally more common for groups with lower rates of internet access overall. Importantly, although smartphones can be useful tools for staying connected, they offer more limited functionality for applications such as word processing or interactive learning platforms. In other words, overall levels of internet access mask further inequities in mode of access, which have implications for whether/how the internet can be used as an educational tool.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As students moved en masse to online learning during the pandemic, access to internet-connected devices became a requirement for students to participate effectively in their new learning environments. The pre-pandemic data described above suggest that not all students would have been in a position to take advantage of these remote classrooms, and that this would be true of a higher percentage of students whose parents had lower incomes or lower levels of educational attainment.  

Some schools and districts helped students meet these needs by providing computers or paying for home internet access. Data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) show that 59 percent of adults6 with children in the home enrolled in school7 reported that computers were provided by their school or district. This percentage was generally higher for those with lower 2019 household incomes, ranging from 68 percent for adults with household incomes below $25,000 to 50 percent for adults with household incomes over $150,000 (figure 2). A similar pattern was observed for internet access. Overall, 4 percent of adults said internet access was paid for by their students’ district or school, ranging from 8 percent for adults in the lowest household income range to about 1 percent for those in the highest household income range. These patterns are consistent with higher rates of assistance going to families with higher rates of expected need (as indicated in figure 1).


Figure 2. Among adults 18 years old and over who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, percentage reporting that computers and internet access were always or usually available and provided or paid for by schools or school districts, by income level: September 2 to 14, 2020

NOTE: Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Data in this figure are considered experimental and do not meet NCES standards for response rates. The survey question refers to enrollment at any time during the 2020–21 school year.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Household Pulse Survey, collection period of September 2 to 14, 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 218.85 and 218.90.


Even with this assistance from schools and districts, however, socioeconomic inequalities in students’ access to computers and internet were not eliminated. In general, the percentage of adults who reported that these resources were always or usually available increased with household income. For example, in September 2020, the percentage of adults reporting that computers were always or usually available was highest for the two household income levels at or above $100,000 and lowest for the two household income levels below $50,000. Similarly, the percentage of adults reporting that internet access was always or usually available was higher for the three household income levels at or above $75,000 than for the three household income levels below $75,000.

Both before and during the pandemic, these data show that overall access to education technology in the United States is high. This access is bolstered by widespread access to mobile devices like smartphones and—at least during the 2020–21 academic year—by resources provided by students’ schools and districts, particularly for students from lower socioecnomic backgrounds. Nevertheless, inequalities persist. As the prevalence of technology in education grows, it will be important to continue to track equity not only in access but also in quality of access and frequency and competency of use.

Explore the following resources to learn more about students’ access to, use of, and competency with education technology.

General

Access

  • Condition of Education 2021

Use

Competency

 

By Véronique Irwin, NCES


[1] The American Community Survey (ACS) provides a large monthly sample of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing data comparable in content to the Long Forms of the Decennial Census. Aggregated over time, these data serve as a replacement for the Long Form of the Decennial Census. This section of the blog post uses data from ACS to describe the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and the percentage with home internet access only through a smartphone in 2019.

[2] The highest quarter refers to the top 25 percent of all family incomes; the middle-high quarter refers to the 51st through the 75th percentile of all family incomes; the middle-low quarter refers to the 26th through the 50th percentile of all family incomes; and the lowest quarter refers to the bottom 25 percent of all family incomes.

[3] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access through one or more of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Includes homes having both smartphones and any of these types of computers.

[4] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the types of computers listed in endnote 3.

[5] Detail does not sum to totals because of rounding.

[6] The Household Pulse Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau and other agencies including NCES, gathers information from adults about household educational activities (as well as other topics). Because the data focus on adults, findings from HPS are not directly comparable to those from ACS mentioned above.

[7] According to HPS data, 52 million adults had children under age 18 in the home enrolled in school in September 2020. Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of these adults reported that classes for their children had moved to a distance learning format using online resources.

New Analysis Reveals Differences in Parents’ Satisfaction With Their Child’s School Across Racial/Ethnic Groups

The National Household Education Surveys (NHES) program collects nationally representative, descriptive data on the educational activities of children and families in the United States. Specifically, NHES’s Parent and Family Involvement in Education (PFI) survey collects data about how families of K–12 students connect to their child’s school. Parents are asked questions about their involvement in and satisfaction with their child’s school as well as school choice.

This blog expands on the PFI First Look report, and more analysis of race and ethnicity in education and early childhood is available in new web tables.

The results from 2019 PFI survey—which was administered before the coronavirus pandemic—show differences across racial/ethnic groups1 in parents’ satisfaction with their child’s school. Overall, White students tended to have parents who were “very satisfied” with their child’s schools, teachers, and academic standards at the highest rates. 

Satisfaction with schools

In 2019, about two-thirds (67 percent) of White students had parents who were “very satisfied” with their child’s school (figure 1). This percentage was higher than the percentages for Hispanic students (64 percent), Asian or Pacific Islander students (61 percent), Black students (59 percent), and “Other race” students2 (57 percent).

A higher percentage of Hispanic students had parents who were “very satisfied” with their child’s school (64 percent) than did Black students (59 percent) and “Other race” students (57 percent).


Figure 1. Percentage of students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade whose parent/guardian reported being "very satisfied" with the student’s school, by student’s race/ethnicity: 2019

\1\"Other race" includes non-Hispanic students of Two or more races and non-Hispanic students whose parents did not choose any race from the categories provided on the race item in the questionnaire.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (PFI-NHES), 2019.


Satisfaction with teachers

Sixty-six percent of White students had parents who were “very satisfied” with their child’s teachers in 2019 (figure 2). This percentage was higher than the percentages for Hispanic students (62 percent), Black students (60 percent), “Other race” students (58 percent), and American Indian or Alaska Native students (49 percent). The percentage for Asian or Pacific Islander students was not measurably different from the percentages for any other racial/ethnic group.

Figure 2. Percentage of students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade whose parent/guardian reported being "very satisfied" with the student’s teachers, by student’s race/ethnicity: 2019

\1\"Other race" includes non-Hispanic students of Two or more races and non-Hispanic students whose parents did not choose any race from the categories provided on the race item in the questionnaire.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (PFI-NHES), 2019.


Satisfaction with academic standards

In 2019, about 64 percent of White students had parents who were “very satisfied” with the academic standards of their child’s school (figure 3). This percentage was higher than the percentages for Black students and Hispanic students (60 percent each), Asian or Pacific Islander students (56 percent), and “Other race” students (55 percent). The percentage for American Indian or Alaska Native students was not measurably different from the percentages for any other racial/ethnic group.

Figure 3. Percentage of students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade whose parent/guardian reported being "very satisfied" with the academic standards of the student's school, by student’s race/ethnicity: 2019

\1\"Other race includes non-Hispanic students of Two or more races and non-Hispanic students whose parents did not choose any race from the categories provided on the race item in the questionnaire.
NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (PFI-NHES), 2019.


Explore the NHES Table Library to find more data about differences in parents’ satisfaction with their child’s school.


[1] Race categories exclude students of Hispanic ethnicity, which are all included in the Hispanic category.
[2] "Other race" includes non-Hispanic students of Two or more races, and non-Hispanic students whose parents did not choose any race from the categories provided on the race item in the questionnaire..

 

By Rachel Hanson and Jiashan Cui, AIR

Back to School by the Numbers: 2021–22 School Year

Across the country, students are preparing to head back to school—whether in person, online, or through some combination of the two—for the 2021–22 academic year. Each year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles a Back-to-School Fast Fact that provides a snapshot of schools and colleges in the United States. Here are a few “by-the-numbers” highlights from this year’s edition.

Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, projected data were not available for this year’s Fast Fact. Therefore, some of the data presented below were collected in 2020 or 2021, but most of the data were collected before the pandemic began. Data collected in 2020 or 2021 are preliminary and subject to change.

 

 

48.1 million

The number of students who attended public elementary and secondary schools in fall 2020. 

The racial and ethnic profile of public school students includes 22.0 million White students, 13.4 million Hispanic students, 7.2 million Black students, 2.6 million Asian students, 2.2 million students of Two or more races, 0.4 million American Indian/Alaska Native students, and 0.2 million Pacific Islander students.

Additionally, in fall 2017, about 5.7 million students attended private schools.

 

3.7 million

The number of students projected to have graduated from high school in the 2018–19 school year, including 3.3 million students from public schools and 0.4 million students from private schools.

 

43 percent

The percentage of fourth- and eighth-grade students who were enrolled in remote instruction in February 2021.

In comparison, in May 2021, 26 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade students were enrolled in remote instruction.

 

2.3 million

The number of teachers in public schools in fall 2019.

Additionally, in fall 2017, there were 0.5 million teachers in private schools.

 

$13,187

The current expenditure per student in public elementary and secondary schools in the 2018–19 school year.

Total current expenditures in public elementary and secondary schools were $667 billion for the 2018–19 school year.

 

19.6 million

The number of students that attended colleges and universities in fall 2019—lower than the peak of 21.0 million in 2010.

About 5.6 million attended 2-year institutions and 14.0 million students attended 4-year institutions in fall 2019.

 

11.3 million

The number of female postsecondary students in fall 2019.

In comparison, there were 8.4 million male postsecondary students in fall 2019.

 

7.3 million

The number of postsecondary students who were enrolled in any distance education course in fall 2019.

In comparison, there were 12.3 million students who were not enrolled in distance education in fall 2019.

 

Be sure to check out the full Fast Fact to learn more about these and other back-to-school data.

The staff of NCES and of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) hopes our nation’s students, teachers, administrators, school staffs, and families have an outstanding school year!

 

By Megan Barnett and Sarah Hein, AIR

New Data Reveal Public School Enrollment Decreased 3 Percent in 2020–21 School Year

NCES recently released revised Common Core of Data (CCD) Preliminary Files, which are the product of the school year (SY) 2020–21 CCD data collection. CCD, the Department of Education’s primary database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States, provides comprehensive annual data on enrollment, school finances, and student graduation rates.

Here are a few key takeaways from the newly released data files:

Public school enrollment in SY 2020–21 was lower than it was in SY 2019–20.

Overall, the number of students enrolled in public schools decreased by 3 percent from SY 2019–20 to SY 2020–21. Note that Illinois did not submit data in time to be included in this preliminary report. The SY 2019–20 and SY 2020–21 total enrollment counts for California, Oregon, American Samoa, and the Bureau of Indian Education do not include prekindergarten counts.

The rate of decline in public school enrollment in SY 2020–21 was not consistent across all states.

Within states, the largest decreases were in Mississippi and Vermont (5 percent each), followed by Washington, New Mexico, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Maine (each between 4 and 5 percent) (figure 1). Eighteen states had decreases of 3 percent or more; 29 states had decreases between 1 and 3 percent; and the District of Columbia, South Dakota, and Utah had changes of less than 1 percent.



Lower grade levels experienced a greater rate of decline in public school enrollment than did higher grade levels in SY 2020–21.

Public school enrollment decreased by 13 percent for prekindergarten and kindergarten and by 3 percent for grades 1–8. Public school enrollment increased by 0.4 percent for grades 9–12.

Most other jurisdictions experienced declines in public school enrollment in SY 2020–21.

Public school enrollment decreased in Puerto Rico (6 percent), Guam (5 percent), and American Samoa (2 percent). The Virgin Islands, however, experienced an increase of less than 1 percent.

To access the CCD preliminary data files and learn more about public school enrollment in SY 2020–21, visit the CCD data files webpage.