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Home / News / Education / Pandemic amplifies inequity in education

Pandemic amplifies inequity in education

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It’s graduation season for seniors – an event that is usually greeted with gleeful anticipation by students and their families. These students, who spent the majority of their last year in high school distance learning, are leaving after what would have arguably been one of the most memorable periods of their life. But it’s memorable in the worst possible sense because a great number of them feel it has been a lost year.                

The college application process, a rite-of-passage for teenagers all over the country, wrought a great deal of anxiety and disappointment this year. Already a nerve-wracking time for students and parents, the pandemic has not only intensified their apprehension but has also exposed a trend in college admissions. According to a New York Times education briefing, selective schools – including California’s UC system and Penn State – saw double-digit surges in applications due to standardized test scores being waived this admissions cycle. Harvard University had a record-setting 42% increase and the entire Ivy League had to extend its notification by a week to give admissions officers time to read and process applications. It marked the lowest college acceptance rates in a decade for these schools.    

On the other hand, many state schools and small private colleges suffered double-digit drops in applications and enrollments. Many institutions outside the top-tier have been struggling for years and the pandemic just made it worse. The N.Y. Times report further said American colleges and universities have endured losses of more than $120 billion and a few have shut down permanently. The institutions still operating often have to make up the difference by cutting services and programs that provide the tools, resources, and support which many low-income and first-generation students need to complete their degrees.

A survey released a few weeks ago by Intelligent.com, a resource for pre, current, and post college students to use when making choices for their education, provides additional evidence of pandemic’s negative effect. It found that one in four students who left college during the pandemic isn’t returning – at a time when getting into a university  was tougher than ever.

Intelligent.com’s key findings are as follows:

  • 21% of students from households that earn less than $25,000 annually left school during the pandemic.
  • 38% of students of color who left school during the pandemic did so because they could not afford tuition.
  • 19% of undergraduate students say they won’t graduate on time because of pandemic-related disruptions.
  • One-third of college students would attend classes exclusively online in exchange for a 10% tuition decrease.

Beata Williams, a college admissions expert and a consultant at Intelligent.com, pronounces, “For many students who have comfortable spaces to study in, privacy, and online connectivity capabilities, the shift to online classes did increase their productivity. However, for students who live in smaller spaces with shared rooms, less privacy, and may have caretaking responsibilities, the shift to online learning during the pandemic decreased their productivity.”

Beata Williams | Courtesy Photo

By mail, Williams answers Beacon Media News’ questions: 

When was Intelligent.com established? What is its mission? Where is it headquartered? Who are the people behind the organization?

Intelligent.com was founded in 2017 by a group of digital marketers based in Seattle, Wash. The founding members can be found here: https://www.intelligent.com/about-us/ and the managing editor is Kristen Scatton. Our mission is to help students make smarter choices through our research and the information we publish.

Please describe your background, including number of years in education and capacity.

I have worked with students in an academic setting since my early twenties when I began my career in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I authentically enjoy and have passion for coaching students to achieve their academic and professional goals. I also fell in love with the potential to make an impact within an academic environment. I completed my B.S. in marketing and my M.S. in public administration at UIC.

After completing my graduate studies, I moved to New York City and worked at Columbia University in the Executive MBA and Executive Education Program offices with executive level students as a finance and admissions officer. I later transitioned to New York University Leonard  B. Stern School of Business where I worked in student engagement,  executive education, MBA international programs, global programs and academic affairs. I thoroughly understand the admissions process and have extensive experience working with domestic and international  students. 

For the past nine years, I have been focused on coaching students through the undergraduate and graduate admissions process. A few schools my students have been offered admission to include: Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, London School of Economics, MIT, NYU, Oxford, UCLA,  UPENN, USC, and Yale. Ninety-nine percent of my students have been admitted to at least one of their top choices. The feedback I overwhelmingly receive is that not only have I helped students reach their dream programs, I alleviate the stress by breaking down the application process into manageable steps leading them towards consistent progress towards their goals. 

What was the purpose of the survey?

We designed the survey targeting enrolled college students with the purpose of determining how they felt about the current state of their education given that it is forcing them to learn in different settings and formats. We wanted to know how the quality of their education and their outcomes have changed during the pandemic and if that has changed their education plans for the future.

When was the survey done and who conducted it? How many students participated and how did you find them? Of the students you asked, how many declined to answer? What methodology was used?

The survey was administered by online survey platform Pollfish on April 6, 2021. We surveyed 1,250 American college students, including undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students aged 18 and older about the impact of the pandemic on their education, and their preferences for school attendance once the pandemic is over. Of the 1,250 polled, none of them declined to answer. The data show 8/600 people were from the LA area (Los Angeles & Long Beach).

Does Intelligent.com offer services or products geared for college students?

Intelligent.com offers resources and guides for prospective college students and current college students to help students succeed in the classroom by bringing together the latest research with tips and techniques championed by today’s leading experts.

Please tell me anything else I need to know about you and Intelligent.com that I didn’t ask.

The internet is filled with information (some garbage). Yet where do we go when we need answers? As a group of digital marketers who have a deep understanding of the internet we wanted to do something about it. We deployed our team of experts and research to scour through all the nooks and crannies of the internet to find the buried treasure, analyzing mountains of data, in order to create content that helps students gain a competitive advantage in their pursuit of higher education and future endeavors. And to make this possible, we’re committed to finding a business model that best serves our users and doesn’t corrupt the integrity of our content. So you won’t find programmatic ad blocks on our site, nor will you find affiliate disclosures. Oh, and you definitely won’t see any ‘native ads’.

All is not lost, though. Williams assures, “While the pandemic has exacerbated the divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students, it has created an opportunity to re-envision and shift to a more equitable learning environment through hybrid learning opportunities at lower costs available to everyone. Community colleges serve a large percentage (approximately 50%) of students lacking in college prep skills and those from lower incomes; President Biden’s proposal to make community colleges tuition free, has the potential to significantly change the access to education for many students. And I still see a need for education in the future.”

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