Students who completed high school during COVID lockdowns are failing college

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Students whose last two years of high school were ruined by school closures and online learning are now falling behind in college, the New York Times reports.

Members of the Class of 2022, who were in second grade when the pandemic began, are struggling to keep up with their freshman college classes, feeling like they’ve lost two years of high school education. With the latest results from the Department for Education showing a dismal decline in math and reading in the fourth and eighth grades, universities fear that students struggling to catch up are a persistent trend among freshmen.

Enrollment in undergraduate programs has fallen 4.2% since 2020, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Benedict College in Columbia, SC, saw freshman enrollment, which normally sits at around 700 students, drop to 378 this term. According to the school’s president, Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, the college’s mathematics department has found “significant remediation needs” in particular.

“We’re now two and a half weeks past midterm, and our grades tell the story: Students are struggling in math,” Artis told the Time.

The increase in the number of students needing extra help to succeed in their classes has led professors and administrators across the country to cut back on their classes and seek better tutoring resources, the Time reports:

At Texas A&M University, some math classes have seen higher rates of Ds, Fs, as well as more dropouts, during the pandemic. The problems have been particularly severe for first-year students, said Paulo Lima-Filho, executive director of the university’s math learning center, which offers tutoring.

Students of all kinds seemed to lack fundamental math skills and rigorous study habits, he said. And some students had a poor understanding of basic concepts, which particularly worried him.

“This gap will propagate through the generation of the cohort,” Dr. Lima-Filho said. “Colleges are going to have to go the extra mile to close that gap.”

After two years of pandemic shutdowns, colleges are also reporting significant increases in student social anxiety and academic apathy.

Christopher Basgier, editorial director at Auburn University, said the number of freshmen seeking tutoring has plummeted. “Maybe it’s because they’ve spent more time learning at home, that they’re not used to going out and looking for that kind of extra help,” Basgier told the Time.

“We had students – for the first time in 10 years as a university president – who said to me, ‘Do we have to attend the parties? ‘” Artis said. “There is almost anxiety associated with returning to a social setting.”

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