In the US, students in particular are feeling the effects of the pandemic

·3-min read
Many US students report that they have considered dropping out of school because of the emotional stress of the Covid pandemic.

Many students in the US have suffered material and psychological hardship since the onset of the pandemic. And the deterioration of their mental health is having a real impact on their academic progress, as a new report from the Gallup consultancy reveals.

The analysts surveyed more than 5,000 US college students pursuing a bachelor's or an associate degree about their state of mind after months of forced isolation and distance learning. While this population group is already particularly vulnerable outside the pandemic, it is now even more so. One third of young people enrolled on a bachelor's degree program (32%) say they have considered withdrawing from their studies for a semester or more in the past six months. This phenomenon is even more pronounced among students working towards an associate degree.

Most explain that they have thought about quitting school because of emotional stress -- whether they are pursuing a bachelor's degree or an associate degree. Covid-19, the cost of education, and the difficulty of their college coursework are also among the most cited reasons. "While higher education institutions have been battling a growing mental health crisis [among the student population] for the past decade, it is clear that the pandemic has exacerbated an already critical issue," Gallup notes in the study , conducted in partnership with the Lumina Foundation.

These results are, unfortunately, not surprising. The pandemic has led to an increase in depression and anxiety worldwide, as previously reported in a study published in The Lancet in October. Young people have been harder hit than older age groups, as they have experienced this crisis during the critical time of their transition to adulthood.

Worries over student debt

Many young people, whether in the United States, the United Kingdom or France, feel that they have been forgotten by their governments during this time. US states such as Arizona, Colorado and Florida have tried to respond by allowing students to take days off to take care of their mental health. Some schools across the country have even created relaxation rooms to help students better manage their daily stress and anxiety.

The deterioration of young people's mental health is not without consequences for American students, but also the university system itself. "Declining enrollments represent a significant challenge to higher education institutions, particularly in smaller institutions that rely heavily upon enrollment to remain open," the Gallup research notes.

Another concern is the repayment of student debt. Many analysts fear a rise in defaults among young graduates. By 2021, some 40 million Americans owed over $1.7 trillion in student debt related to paying for their higher education. A pause on some student loan repayments was decreed in March 2020 by Donald Trump due to the pandemic, before being extended until May 1 this year by Joe Biden. "Millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments," the US president explained in December. As the scheme comes to an end, many Americans fear that a part of the country's youth will be plunged even further into hardship.

Caroline Drzewinski

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