Skip Navigation

84% of All Undergraduates Experienced Some or All Their Classes Moved to Online-Only Instruction Due to the Pandemic

June 16, 2021

Largest Study to Date on Pandemic’s Early Impact on Postsecondary Students

In the largest study to date on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on postsecondary students, 84% of America’s undergrads were found to have had some or all of their classes moved to online-only instruction during spring 2020.

Another 27% of undergraduates reported receiving a tuition refund from their institution and 38% received a room-and-board refund in the first academic semester of the pandemic.

The findings are contained in a new National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, 201920 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20): First Look at the Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic on Undergraduate Student Enrollment, Housing, and Finances (Preliminary Data).

“The data used in this report provide the first national estimates of the early impact of COVID-19 on postsecondary students,” said James “Lynn” Woodworth, NCES commissioner. “During this unprecedented time in U.S. postsecondary education, NCES was able to collect real-time information about the impact of the pandemic on the educational experiences of students enrolled during the 2019-20 academic year. Student interviews started just before institutions began closing their campuses in March of 2020.”

The report describes pandemic-related disruptions to students’ enrollment, housing, and finances in the spring 2020, as well as how institutions supported and informed students on these and other impacts.

Among the key findings:

  • Eighty-seven percent of undergraduate students experienced enrollment disruption or change, 28% of students experienced housing disruption or change, and 40% of students experienced financial disruption or change.
  • Thirty-four percent received technology or technical services from their institution to aid in transitioning to online instruction.
  • Twenty-eight percent of undergraduates experienced a housing disruption due to COVID-19: moving back to their permanent address, moving to another living situation, or having difficulty finding safe and stable housing.
  • Twenty-nine percent lost a job or lost income as a result of the pandemic.
  • Seventy percent of undergraduates agreed that their institution provided helpful communication on changes to accessing coursework due to the pandemic. 

To view the full report, please visit


The National Center for Education Statistics, a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System, is the statistical center of the U.S. Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations. NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally.

The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study is a comprehensive study that examines how students and their families pay for postsecondary education. It includes nationally representative samples of undergraduates and graduate students; students attending public and private less-than-2-year institutions, community colleges, 4-year colleges, and major universities. Students who receive financial aid as well as those who do not receive financial aid participate in NPSAS.

Contact: National Center for Education Statistics
Annual Reports and Information Staff