The impact of COVID-19 on student experiences and expectations: Evidence from a survey

Esteban M. Aucejo, Jacob French, Maria Paola Ugalde Araya, Basit Zafar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

460 Scopus citations


In order to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, we surveyed approximately 1500 students at one of the largest public institutions in the United States using an instrument designed to recover the causal impact of the pandemic on students' current and expected outcomes. Results show large negative effects across many dimensions. Due to COVID-19: 13% of students have delayed graduation, 40% have lost a job, internship, or job offer, and 29% expect to earn less at age 35. Moreover, these effects have been highly heterogeneous. One quarter of students increased their study time by more than 4 hours per week due to COVID-19, while another quarter decreased their study time by more than 5 hours per week. This heterogeneity often followed existing socioeconomic divides. Lower-income students are 55% more likely than their higher-income peers to have delayed graduation due to COVID-19. Finally, we show that the economic and health related shocks induced by COVID-19 vary systematically by socioeconomic factors and constitute key mediators in explaining the large (and heterogeneous) effects of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104271
JournalJournal of Public Economics
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Expectations
  • Higher education
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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