How COVID Has Affected Less Selective Private Colleges


According to a new report from the TIAA Institute, the coronavirus pandemic has not disproportionately harmed the outcomes of underrepresented racial minority students at a small number of less selective private colleges, and those colleges have fared better than only the catastrophic accounts suggest.

In examining 152 “private, nonprofit, access-focused colleges”—or colleges that aren’t highly selective and whose students have a wide range of test scores—the TIAA Institute found that “enrollment from full-time first-year undergraduates declined on average in 2020 –21 school year…but declines were less pronounced” for underrepresented racial minority students.

The report states that “proportions of [underrepresented minority] the number of students in their student body has actually increased, although the number of such students has declined overall. Additionally, the freshman retention rate in 2020-21 was up from 2019-20. However, the study noted that “data limitations precluded examining retention rates” for underrepresented minorities.

Other findings of the report include:

  • A minority of the 152 colleges surveyed adopted “entirely or primarily online instruction” in 2020-21, with 22% doing so in fall 2020 and 35% in spring 2021.
  • Forty-five percent of colleges in the study introduced some type of student vaccination mandate in fall 2021, though non-Catholic Christian colleges and Republican-controlled states of the governorate and legislature were less likely to introduce a vaccination mandate on campuses.
  • Sixteen percent of the colleges in the study have reduced or frozen tuition for the 2020-2021 school year.
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