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Survey: Post-secondary students reconsidering fall semester plans in wake of COVID-19

(Ottawa – May 12, 2020) A new survey commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) and the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) shows a significant number of students are reconsidering their plans for university and college in the fall, citing lost income, limited support, and concerns about the quality of remote learning.

“Students and their families are worried about their health, the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty about how classes will be taught in the fall,” says CAUT Executive Director David Robinson. “Among those students who say they will still be able to afford their tuition fees and living costs, a large number — about 75 per cent — are worried that distance learning will create a poor learning experience.”

The survey, of both graduating high-school students and returning post-secondary students, reveals:

  • Seven in ten say their summer employment plans have been negatively affected by COVID-19;
  • 30 per cent of returning and new students might change their plans about enrolling at a post-secondary institution in the fall;
  • One in two says that COVID-19 has made it more difficult to afford tuition and living costs;
  • Over two thirds of students say their personal finances and those of their parents or family have been affected by the pandemic.

CFS National Chairperson Sofia Descalzi points out that lack of affordability is affecting some students more than others, with 85 per cent of those reconsidering plans for their fall education saying reducing or eliminating tuition would be central to assisting their return.

“It is clear that already marginalized populations are being affected disproportionately by the situation, with a larger number of women and those identifying as visible minorities saying it will be harder to afford post-secondary,” Descalzi notes. “Even with government supports in place — such as the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and changes to grants and loans — the stark reality is that many students will not be able to swing higher education come fall and, if they do, many students will have to increase their debt levels even more.” 

The survey was conducted by Abacus Data with 1,100 high school and post-secondary students in Canada, aged 17 and older, from April 23 to May 1, 2020. The sample includes 300 graduating high-school students and 800 post-secondary students.

For more information, please contact:

Lisa Keller, CAUT Communications Officer; 613-222-3530 or

Geneviève Charest, CFS media contact;