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Highlights from Higher Ed: College Town Outbreaks, Mental Health, Voting and Tuition Inflation

76% of worst U.S. Coronavirus outbreaks are in college communities

Cities and towns housing large student populations are epicenters of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the country. “Of the country’s 25 worst COVID-19 outbreaks over the past two weeks, 19 are in towns with colleges; the five communities with the highest number of coronavirus cases per capita all house colleges with at least 15,000 students enrolled.” Harrisonburg, Virginia, home to James Madison University, holds the dubious distinction of having the highest number of coronavirus cases per capita: 1,562 cases per 100,000 people. That school sent students home on September 1 after more than 500 people there tested positive within a week of the start of in-person classes. “While some of these colleges aren’t hosting in-person classes, many students have returned to the area around campus anyway, swarming local bars and apartments. In Whitman County, Washington, for example, just 70 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents were reported before Washington State University students returned to the area… now, the number is up to 1,295.”

Source: Forbes

Nearly one in four college students know someone who thought of suicide during the pandemic

Almost one-fourth of high school students (24%) and college students (23%) say they know at least one person who has had suicidal thoughts since the beginning of the pandemic; 5% of students in both groups report having made a suicide attempt themselves. “The survey shows more than half of US students (58% college, 53% high school) are worried about their mental health; with over half (53% college, 62% high school) reporting experiencing stress, and a similar number (48% college, 51% high school) saying they have suffered anxiety since the outbreak of the pandemic.”

Source: University Business

The tuition rate of inflation just dropped by the largest monthly basis since 1978

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) for college tuition and fees “slid by a seasonally adjusted 0.7% [from July to August], the biggest drop since 1978… Year-over-year, the index for tuition was up only 1.3%.” Tuition reductions in the wake of the pandemic were the main factor behind the drop in prices. Generally speaking, college tuition has been rising at a much higher rate than the economy’s overall rate of inflation. “Tuition prices have steadily risen for decades. The CPI for the category grew by more than 160% over the last 20 years while the general CPI rose just 50%… Colleges experienced major cost increases during that time, according to the Higher Education Price Index, a prominent measure of higher ed inflation. The most recent report showed the inflation rate for colleges was 2.5% during the 2019 fiscal year. That marked a decline from increases of 2.9% and 3.4% for fiscal years 2018 and 2017, respectively.”

Source: Education Dive

Inspired by COVID-19 and race relations, 71% of college students plan to vote in November

A recent survey of 4,000 full-time college students revealed that 71% are “absolutely certain” they will vote in November’s election. “Students who identify as Democrats were most likely to say they plan to vote in the upcoming election. Roughly 81% of likely Democrats, 74% of Republicans and 63% of independents said they are absolutely certain they will vote. Notably, 10% of independents said they are fairly or absolutely certain they will not vote… Addressing the Coronavirus pandemic was the biggest concern among those who were surveyed, with 33% identifying it as their most important issue. Race relations and climate change were the second and third more important issues to those surveyed, with 22% and 12% identifying those topics as their top concern, respectively.”

Source: CNBC

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