Prichard Committee survey identifies 5 key areas

We recently released The Coping with COVID Kentucky Postsecondary Student Impact Survey representing our continued effort to elevate stories and statistics about how COVID-19 has impacted students and families in Kentucky.

We asked current and prospective Kentucky college students to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their education plans and experiences.  Questions were asked of high school seniors, currently and/or recently enrolled college students, and adults not currently enrolled in higher education.  Nearly 1,000 responded in total.

The findings confirm what others are hearing across the nation and in Kentucky, and have implications for improving investments, policies and practices that deliver on student success. Not surprisingly, amongst all current and prospective students, concerns about the ability to pay for college were universal.  For currently enrolled students, these findings also stood out:

  • Mental health needs on campuses have soared.
  • Concerns about basic needs have intensified.
  • Learning virtually has yielded mixed results.
  • Amid uncertainty, college plans have changed.

And importantly, many high school seniors remain conflicted about the perceived value of a college education.

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Why do these findings matter?

Simply put, COVID-19 is a significant disruption for students, families, and colleges & universities. This disruption stands to impact Kentucky’s ambitious goal of reaching 60% of working age adults with college degrees or career credentials by 2030.

Overall declining enrollments at Kentucky’s public colleges and universities may represent a leading indicator of challenges to come. While in-state college-going of recent high school graduates continues a multi-year decline – for all students, low-income and minority populations – coupled with declines in adult enrollment.

Other data add to these concerns. Applications for federal student aid (FAFSA) are down significantly compared to last year indicating the difficulties faced by current and prospective students when making education plans.  The U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey indicates that COVID-19 has impacted the postsecondary education plans of nearly 70% of individuals planning on taking classes. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 75% of 18-24 year olds have had an increase in adverse mental health conditions due to COVID-19.

The importance of reaching our higher education attainment goal cannot be overstated – higher wages, better employment, reduced poverty, better health and Kentucky’s overall quality of life. Especially in light of the COVID-19, Kentucky must break down barriers to student success and ensure all students can see themselves reflected in the college mirror.

Kentucky Campuses Offer Hopeful Signs

The good news is that Kentucky college and university leaders recognize the need to support students’ health and well-being, stay on track, as well as pay for school.  For example, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) announced in earlier in March $1.5 million in grants to campuses to expand and improve student mental health services.

Moreover, just last week, CPE announced another $1.5 million in grants to support “summer bridge” programs that help prepare students for college and persist into their second year.

Lastly, Kentucky has received and stands to receive additional assistance for postsecondary education from federal COVID-19 stimulus packages.  These funds, in large part, are to support students with financial and basic needs – for anything related to the cost of attendance or emergency needs. Kentucky is estimated to receive $459 million for higher education from the American Rescue Plan enacted by Congress in March of 2021.  This is in addition to approximately $451.7 million allocated for Kentucky higher education from the CARES Act and Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in March and December of 2020, respectively.

Watch the Prichard Committee Ed Blog in the coming weeks for more information about the impact of COVID on education at all levels, and best practices and recommendations for education recovery.


Perry joined the staff in August 2015. Previously, he served as senior analyst and staff administrator on the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission’s Budget Review Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education, where he provided oversight for more than $1 billion in appropriations. He has held research positions at the Council on Developmental Disabilities at University of Kentucky, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Alaska Seafood International. He is a graduate of Centre College and has an MA in Public Policy from University of Kentucky Martin School.

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