Research findings indicate shifting perceptions around the value of college, the state of student loans, and the need for mental health and DEI discussions
Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE: BNED), a leading solutions provider for the education industry, today announced findings from its annual COLLEGE 2030™ research report, Emerging from the Pandemic: Reimagining Higher Education. This year’s report features insights from over 2,500 students, faculty and administrators nationwide on the state of higher education and expectations for the decade ahead.
To understand and harness the forces that will have a profound impact on higher education over the next eight years, the report addresses five key themes: The value of higher education, career preparedness, the state of student loans, support for mental health and fostering DEI.
The Value of a College Education
Despite increased scrutiny around the rising cost of tuition and the continued student loan crisis over the past year, one-third (33%) of students say the value of higher education has increased. The majority of the 33% of students who claimed to see an increase in value were primarily community college students, graduate or professional students, and older students (25+ years old).
The reason some believe there has been an increase in value, may come down to class format. Nearly half of students (49%) said they prefer a hybrid class format. However, 54% of faculty favor a fully in-person environment. This poses a challenge for institutions to align the two groups’ differing preferences.
“Students, especially community college and older students, appreciate a personalized education experience and enjoy the flexibility of a hybrid environment,” said Michael Huseby, CEO of Barnes & Noble Education. “In the coming years, it will be important for institutions to continue to create learning environments that provide the best value proposition to the type of students they serve.”
Enhancing the value of higher education directly ties to how prepared students are for their future careers. When asked about careered preparedness, students had a positive response: 73% of students said they feel prepared for the industry/field they want to pursue.
However, students are looking for more school support with networking assistance (46%), resume help (43%) and mentors (38%), and it will be important for institutions to offer more tangible career prep programs.
The State of Student Loans
Though college tuition rates have remained steady throughout the pandemic, rising inflation and the end of federal stimulus funding will likely increase college costs, directly impacting a student’s ability to pay.
According to this year’s survey, just under half of students (47%) had student loans, and of that half, 53% were forced to apply for additional loans as a direct result of the pandemic.
When asked about paying back their loans, nearly 80% of students said they plan to begin payments after graduating - despite the federal student loan pause on payments. Just 8% of students claim they are not planning to start repayment, with 39% of those waiting to pay, saying they are hoping for student loan forgiveness.
Supporting Mental Health
Student mental health has been a growing concern for many institutions throughout the pandemic. While over half of students (53%) and faculty (58%) say their mental health has improved since returning to in-person or hybrid learning, 28% of students and 21% of faculty noted their mental health has declined - indicating that the transition from remote learning has caused challenges.
One of those challenges includes the lack of preparation for the transition to in-person classes. As one junior at a 4-year public university noted, “I forget what it's like to be in class with others. The schedule changes and the routine I have been in for two years changed, which gets difficult to get used to.”
While additional on-campus mental health support will be important as students and faculty recover from the pandemic and face new stresses, the majority of students and faculty are not using mental health resources provided to them.
While 81% of students and 92% of faculty indicated they knew their school offered mental health resources, only 20% say they have used them.
There are opportunities for schools to proactively involve students and faculty to seek feedback on DEI efforts and educate them on DEI issues.
Only 35% of students indicated they had been asked for feedback on their schools DEI efforts, while in contrast, 58% of faculty indicated they had been asked for input.
“As we move through the next decade, it will be more important than ever to ensure administrators are not just asking for faculty feedback, but also listening to their students’ wants and needs,” said Huseby. “Ensuring student needs are being met will help build an inclusive campus and provide the mental health, career and life services students need to succeed.”
Download the full report here.
Barnes & Noble College Insights™ surveyed college students, faculty, and administrators nationwide. This survey was administered online in March 2022 using the Qualtrics platform. The analysis includes a total of 2,600 respondents from 2-year, 4-year, public and private institutions in the U.S.
To provide the most comprehensive outlook possible, the collected data has been augmented with our industry expertise gathered from years of immersion in the college space. We’re sharing our insights built from daily conversations with our university partners and unparalleled understanding of trends and forces shaping higher ed.
About Barnes & Noble Education
Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE: BNED) is a leading solutions provider for the education industry, driving affordability, access, and achievement at hundreds of academic institutions nationwide and ensuring millions of students are equipped for success in the classroom and beyond. Through its family of brands, BNED offers campus retail services and academic solutions, a digital direct-to-student learning ecosystem, wholesale capabilities and more. BNED is a company serving all who work to elevate their lives through education, supporting students, faculty, and institutions as they make tomorrow a better, more inclusive and smarter world. For more information, visit www.bned.com.
Carolyn J. Brown
Senior Vice President
Corporate Communications & Public Affairs