Students’ trust in their colleges remained stable in the early days of Covid, survey results show

Despite widespread disillusionment with the sudden shift to online learning in the spring of 2020, a new study shows that most students’ sense of confidence in higher education was unaffected by the disruptions caused by Covid-19 – at least in the first months of the pandemic. .

Students with disabilities even reported increased confidence in their colleges, “probably the result of some very concerted efforts to make sure the transition is smooth for those who need additional support,” said Shannon Calderone, an associate professor at the university. director of education at Washington State University and lead author of the study. Calderone said self-paced online learning worked better for some of those students.

Students “were generally receptive to institutional efforts to make this transition as smooth as possible.”

A study published this month in American behavioral scientistused data from the Student Engagement Survey of more than 8,300 students at 29 colleges from February to March 2020. The study emphasized the importance of understanding “how the turbulence of the pandemic has recalibrated the nature of the relationship between students and their institutions.” Looking specifically at the role of trust.

While campus closings changed the lives of many students, new research shows that initially most students believed their colleges were doing the best they could.

“The institutions were responsive enough and students were generally receptive to the institutions’ efforts to make this transition as smooth as possible,” Calderone said. He worked on the study with Kevin Fosnacht, a researcher at Indiana University’s Bloomington Center for Secondary Studies, where he works on the NSSE project.

But the results differ for black and first-generation college students, whose trust in their institutions declined during that time.

The study builds on Calderone and Fosnacht’s previous research on the racial trust gap, which shows that the pandemic exacerbated distrust “of the students who were most likely to be distrustful,” Calderone said.

“Part of what we know from a broader understanding of trust patterns in the broader U.S. population is that there is lower broad social trust among low-income people and especially people of color,” Calderone said. “And what we’ve seen then is consistency among students as well.”

Calderone and Fosnacht noted that confidence increased among a privileged population better equipped to deal with campus closings and the sudden shift to online learning.

Calderone said this study suggests that “we can be quite optimistic about how institutions responded to this incredibly difficult moment in our history.” But colleges need to be more aware of the circumstances in which students are being asked to continue their education and be successful,” he said, referring to students who lacked access to the technology and resources they needed. who were struggling with economic hardships and family responsibilities.

Calderone noted that most of the colleges represented in the National Student Engagement Survey are predominantly white institutions, so the data mostly reflects the experiences of black students attending those campuses. He said the study shows that predominantly white institutions should be more attentive to the needs of black students.

An outstanding question is how, after more than two years of Covid-related disruptions to their studies, students’ confidence has changed since then. Many students have expressed concerns about Zoom classes, social life and how their colleges have handled the pandemic.

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