Online Education Statistics

Report Highlights:

  • Among nearly 3000 colleges in the United States, only 10% had plans to offer their instruction completely online for Fall 2020, with the remaining 34% of institutions intending to run classes primarily online, 21% in hybrid format, 23% primarily in person, and 4% fully in-person.
  • The online learning industry is projected to pass $370 billion by 2026
  • 20% of college students whose classes were moved online during the pandemic indicated it was a major challenge to find a quiet place for online instruction
  • 33% of post-secondary school administrators indicate they will continue to offer both remote and online course options even after their campuses have reopened and normal operations resumed

Related reports include: K-12 School Enrollment & Student Population Statistics |  College Enrollment & Student Demographic Statistics |  U.S. Public Education Spending Statistics  |  How Many Public Schools Are There in the U.S.?


COVID-19 and Online Enrollment:

Fall 2020

  • Fall 2020’s approximate national enrollment in Title IV degree-granting institutions at approximately 17.7 million students, a decline of -2.5% in Fall 2020, which was nearly twice the rate of decline in Fall 2019 (-1.3%).
    • The decline of first-time student enrollment was -13.1%
    • Public 2-year institutions, usually community colleges, saw a -10% loss in enrollment from Fall 2019

 

Spring 2021 

As of mid-February 2021, enrollments have significantly changed compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Because most universities are still conducting classes in at least a hybrid or partially online format, the data is not available for the percentages of instruction occurring online vs. in-person.

  • Spring 2021’s undergraduate enrollment indicated an overall average decline of -4.5% compared to 2020’s -0.9% decline.
    • Public 4-year institutions had declined by -3.3%
    • Private non-profit 4-year institutions had declined by -2.0%
    • Private for-profit 4-year institutions had increased by 3.9%
    • Public 2-year institutions had decreased by -9.5%
  • Spring 2021’s graduate enrollment actually increased by nearly three times (+4.3%) the pre-pandemic levels.
    • Public 4-year institutions increased by 6.2%
    • Private non-profit 4-institutions increased by 1.5%
    • Private for-profit 4-year institutions increased by 4%
  • Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 saw an increase of enrollment at primarily online institutions, with a 7% increase, compared to 5% in Spring 2020.
  • While overall enrollment has declined through Fall 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions that offer primarily online instruction are seeing increases:
    • In Fall 2019, full-time undergraduate enrollment for primarily online institutions had decreased from the previous year by 0.3%, in Fall 2020, enrollment had decreased by 2.45%
    • In Fall 2019, full-time graduate enrollment had increased by 1.6%, in Fall 2020, enrollment increased by 1.9%, with part-time enrollment increasing by 4.9% from the previous year

General Statistics:

Changes to Online Learning

COVID-19 further exposed what most parents of students already know: how the education system in the US fails to adequately serve students. Unsurprisingly, in 2019, the education industry indicated the lowest adoption rate (17%) of data analysis and data-driven features in designing instruction and optimizing learning outcomes.

With the sudden and extensive shift to online learning, universities and colleges are looking to technology to streamline operations and boost flagging enrollment numbers.

During the pandemic, 42% of students indicated staying motivated was a major problem for them completing coursework online.

Personalized online learning is helping address issues such as motivation, dropout rates, and distractions. It can be utilized to personalize admissions, implement proactive student retention, and  Students are already accustomed to highly personal interactions with artificial intelligence (AI) such as Siri, Facebook, and Google. This market is expected to grow by over $250 million by 2025.

Immersive Experiences: Augmented and virtual reality are game-changers in education in capturing and keeping the attention of students. The downside to these experiences is the speed of internet needed for them to be implemented on a widespread basis.

Adoption of OER materials: The college book scam forces students to buy brand new books because books less than a year old become “outdated” even if they have the exact same content. College students spent an average of $1200-$1800.00 on books and supplies in the 2018-19 school year. OER resources are freely available educational resources that are published under open licenses, frequently in digital form. With digital content becoming more preferable than printed, the move to OER resources for online instruction is expected to grow.

COVID-19 Effect on Distance Learning Worldwide

 It is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted more students and schools than any other event in history, with nearly 1.6 billion students affected worldwide. The socio-economic skills gap could potentially increase by more than 30% due to COVID-19.

  • Globally, actions taken to improve connectivity and facilitate distance learning included:
    • Subsidized or free internet access (60%)
    • Subsidized or free devices (42%)
    • Access available through mobile phones (63%)
    • Access available through landline (28%)
    • No action taken (11%)
    • Hiring additional teachers to support remote learning (33% among mainly upper-middle and high-income nations)
    • Additional training and instruction for teachers regarding remote learning (66%)
  • 40% of the poorest countries nationwide did not support at-risk students, including children with disabilities, refugee and displaced children, and female students, who are often expected to shoulder domestic chores.
  • In addition to traditional computer-based online learning, many countries utilized delivery methods such as TV and radio broadcasts for students. Remote learning modalities among various nations varied:
    • Lower-income nations utilizing online platforms and take-home materials the least (64%) and instead relying on television (92%) and radio (93%) broadcasts
    • Higher-income nations utilized online platforms the most (95%) using television (63%) and radio (22%) the least
    • Only 27% of low-income countries reported television instruction as having been effective
  • The loss of learning could result in a reduction in average learning levels for all students worldwide and an increase of students with low levels of achievement due to dropping out of school, with a 25% increase of students falling below a baseline level of proficiency needed to participate in future learning or function in society
  • Approximately 15% of students in Western Europe and North America are without internet, compared to nearly 80% in sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19 Effect on Distance Learning in the United States

During the pandemic in 2020, most colleges and universities abruptly moved most of their courses online and closed their campuses. A survey of college students taken after Spring 2020 semester indicated that:

  • 43% of students enrolled in traditional face-to-face classroom courses had not taken an online class before, 21% had only taken one online class prior to the pandemic, and 35% had taken two or more classes.
  • Prior to the move online, 87% of students indicated they were somewhat or very satisfied with the course, and afterward, the number declined to 59%. The 3% of students who were very dissatisfied before going online grew to 13%

In the United States, over half (53%) of Americans indicated that the internet has been essential for them during the pandemic, but 28% were worried about paying for the internet bill at home, and 30% concerned about their cell phone bill.

By April 2020, 94% of parents with K-12 children indicated their children’s school is closed and express concern with completing schoolwork due to technology and lack of access.

  • 29% of parents indicated their child may have to do their schoolwork on a cellphone, with the highest percentage (43%) considered lower-income families
  • 22% of parents indicated their child would have to use public wi-fi to complete schoolwork because there is no reliable internet at home, with the highest percentage (44%) considered lower-income families
  • 21% of parents indicated their child would not be able to complete schoolwork because they lack access to a home computer, with the highest percentage (33%) considered lower-income families

In August 2020, 39% of incoming freshmen considering postsecondary enrollment indicated they would prefer to stay at home and take all classes online, compared to 30% who would prefer to return to campus and take classes in a hybrid format- some online instruction, and some in-person.

  • 40% of freshmen indicated it was likely or highly likely they would not go to college at all in the fall.
  • 33% of freshmen indicated they strongly agreed their college or university would take precautions to keep them safe, compared to only 25% of returning students

96% of post-secondary school administrators indicate faculty development is a top priority for 2021-22.

 Click here for more information on U.S. Department of Education’s COVID-19 resources for schools, students, and families.


Online Learning: Styles and Formats

Distance education can take many forms. The most common are:

  • Fully online: Active instruction, testing, assignments, and discussion takes place online
  • Simultaneous Teaching:  Faculty will teach online and in-person at the same time, i.e. a live stream of a lecture that students can attend in person or virtually
  • Blended or Hybrid: Between 25-50% of instructions, assignments, and discussion takes place online
    • Students study course material outside class and utilize classroom time to reinforce learning, ask questions, and interact with their instructor
  • Face-to-Face Web Enabled: Students “meet” virtually with their instructors (and other class members) via video chat or teleconferencing
  • Emergency remote teaching: shifting of face-to-face, blended, or other courses to a fully online format in the event students or faculty are unable to come to campus.
  • MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses): pre-recorded content/lectures available 24/7 with open-ended, self-paced learning

 Since COVID-19, many schools are offering “Primarily Online with Delayed In-Person Start formats, where coursework will eventually be offered in person but has been delayed, and classes will be taken online until in-person instruction resumes.

The role of the instructor may vary from no participation or presence (automated course modules) to having a very active presence and level of participation with students.

The student role may include answering questions, completing problems, listening or reading assignments, collaboration with other students in the course, and use of course resources.

  • Synchronous learning will include real time teaching, feedback and contact with instructor and other students, requiring a live (and fast) internet connection.
  • Asynchronous learning includes use of online materials that can be obtained or submitted by the internet via classroom portals, messages, emails, etc. Does not require a continuous connection.

Post-Secondary: Pre-COVID-19

Before COVID-19, distance learning was primarily geared towards higher education for returning adult and transfer students, with online learning programs targeting 79% of adult students returning after an absence from school. In 2020 (pre-pandemic):

  • The most important factors to students in the decision to enroll in online learning programs:
    • 51% of students indicated that affordability was the most important factor
    • 36% the reputation of the school and program
    • 28% that the program would offer the quickest path to a degree
    • 27% that they could take both online and on-campus courses during the program
  • 52% of students indicated that if the program they wanted to enroll in was not available through online learning, they would find it online at a different university
  • Nearly half of students learning online had prior experience with online instruction prior to their current distance learning program. Among these seasoned online learners, 70% indicated their most recent prior online learning experience had been completed at a college or university.

Objectives for obtaining an online degree or credential in 2020 (pre-pandemic) were almost always career-driven. Students took classes online:

  • To enable starting a new career with higher income (25%)
  • To start a new career more aligned with the student’s interests (24%)
  • To get a promotion within the student’s present profession (14%)

 In 2020, 41% of students indicated the quality of their online college-level learning experience was better than college-level classroom instruction, compared to 15% who felt it was not as good.

38% of online students indicated they completed most course-related activities with mobile devices (phone/tablet) other than a laptop:

  • 47% used mobile devices for digital readings
  • 35% for completing videos/multimedia learning
  • 32% for completing practice activities
  • 27% for completing graded activities
  • 25% for communicating with professors
  • 21% for researching additional information
  • 3% for participating in discussion forums

 In 2018, the challenges institutions faced with implementing distance learning included:

  • 69% indicated marketing new online programs and meeting recruitment goals
  • 59% indicated meeting cost/management demands required by online programs
  • 34% indicated making online programs profitable
  • 16% indicated utilizing third-party content providers/designers and choosing content
  • Finally, 4% had concerns regarding resistance by faculty to use of technology to support online instruction and students, maintaining the same rigor and content quality found in face-to-face instruction and high expectations

Faculty experience with online instruction varied greatly before COVID-19:

  • In 2019, 46% of faculty members said they have taught an online course for credit compared to 39% in 2016
  • In 2019, 38% of faculty members used a blended or hybrid course format including both online learning and face-to-face instruction
  • 41% of instructors teaching online have used distance learning technology for less than 5 years, and less than 25% taught online for at least 10 years
  • College administrators are more likely to endorse distance learning than faculty.
  • Just under 70% of instructors teaching online built their own courses in 2019, compared to 17% who utilized courses built by an instructional designer
    • 14% who utilized courses another faculty member had designed
    • 67% of faculty members received professional development for designing blended and online courses
    • 39% utilized an instructional designer to revise or build an online course
    • Most instructors do not support the usage of external vendors for online course delivery to students
  • In 2019, 39% of faculty members indicated they supported increased usage of technology in education, compared to 29% in 2017
  • In 2019, 60% of faculty members feel that academic dishonesty is more prevalent in online teaching vs. face-to-face settings compared to 39% who feel it occurs equally in both situations
  • Full-time faculty members were more likely to have completed professional development and training for designing online or hybrid/blended courses online:

Post-Secondary: COVID-19 Impact 

 The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of improving the quality of distance learning for higher education. College and university presidents surveyed in June 2020 expressed mixed feelings about the success of remote learning implemented in their schools:

  • 55% felt they had been successful at ensuring high academic standards
  • 47% indicated they felt they had been successful at training less-experienced faculty

In a U.S. Census Bureau survey of the population 18 years and older in households where at least one adult was planning to take classes in Fall 2021 semester from a post-high-school institution:

  • 5 million indicated their institution changed the content or format of classes. Among these:
    • 9 million indicated this did not affect their plans for school in the fall
    • 4 million indicated all plans to take classes had been canceled
    • 2 million indicated classes would be different formats in fall
    • 8 million indicated fewer classes would be taken
    • 201,281 indicated more classes would be taken
    • 709,132 indicated classes would be taken from a different institution
    • 574,237 indicated classes would be taken for a different certificate or degree

During the pandemic in 2020, students who found their courses unexpectedly moved online encountered challenges.

  • 16% of students indicated internet connectivity issues interfered with their course participation often, 29% indicated occasional disruption, but 56% indicated this happened rarely or never.
  • 79% of students used a laptop computer to access their courses, 15% utilized a desktop computer, and 5% utilized smartphones or tablets. 10% indicated they had to share the device with other users, and 3% indicated the device they used was provided to them by their institution
  • 23% of students experienced hardware/software issues that affected their participation and attendance in their courses occasionally, with 8% indicating it happened often.
  • 42% of students indicated staying motivated was a major problem for them completing coursework online, with 37% indicating it was a minor problem
  • 20% of students indicated it was a major problem finding a quiet place to work on their courses online
  • 16% indicated fitting the course in with their home life and responsibilities

 Online Learning & Accreditation

On March 5, U.S. Department of Education indicated it could approve a reduced academic year but advance notice of the institution’s intention to do so must be given.

In June 2020, the U.S. Department of Education extended flexibility allowing institutions to continue offering distance learning through December 31, 2020. However, for Spring 2021 and onwards, institutions not already approved by the Higher Learning Commission to offer online courses and programs have to apply for approval if students will reach a 50% threshold of completion within a program through distance education.

Institutions offering academic programs that prepare students for licensure, certification, or other qualifying examination are responsible for exploring other relevant authorities’ requirements prior to making any decision to waive graduation requirements. This is because waivers may compromise a student’s ability to achieve licensure or certification. Likewise, if considering offering courses via distance education or accelerated formats, institutions preparing students for licensure, certification or other qualifying examination must take into account other relevant authorities’ requirements or accommodations for similar reasons.


K-12: Pre-COVID-19

 Prior to COVID-19, most students (and teachers) in elementary and high school did not have much experience in distance learning, however it is estimated that at least 2% of US students have been participating in online instruction.

  • In 2015, only 11.5% of 8th graders used a computer for schoolwork for more than 3 hours on a weekday
  • Only 21% of public schools and 13% of private schools offered courses entirely online. Among these schools:
    • 9% offered one or a few online
    • 6% offered some but less than half of all courses online
    • 3% offered about half of all courses online
    • 7% offered a majority of all courses online
    • 7% offered all courses online
  • 29% of charter schools offered any courses entirely online compared to 20% of traditional public schools
  • In 2019, nearly 63% of high school students utilized digital learning tools daily, compared to 45% of elementary students in third grade or above

Perceptions on the adoption of digital learning tools (websites, apps, online tutorials, online games, programs or videos) varies between teachers and administrators in K-12 schools:

  • 73% of school district administrators have a more favorable perception of the effectiveness of digital teaching tools for personalizing instruction than teachers (57%)
  • 96% of administrators support increased use of digital learning tools, compared to 53% of teachers
  • However, 65% of administrators indicated their district stopped utilizing a digital tool they had adopted because it did not improve student learning outcomes
  • 42% of students indicated they would like to utilize digital learning tools more often, 8% less often, and 50% about the same

 K-12 Virtual Schools:

 Virtual K-12 schools have been in existence since the 1990s. Compared to distance learning conducted by teachers who are putting a classroom curriculum online, virtual schools and teachers have been set up and trained to specialize in online learning, using purpose-designed curriculum and tools.

A fully virtual school offers all of its instruction online, but does not exclude students and teachers meeting in person for field trips, school-sponsored social events, or assessment purposes. A partially virtual school is primarily virtual with supplemental traditional classroom instruction provided.

The number of virtual schools by school type in 2019 were:

  • 675 schools considered fully virtual:
    • 581 regular schools
    • 2 vocational education
    • 92 alternative education
  • 7,872 were considered not fully virtual:
    • 6,941 regular schools
    • 56 special education schools
    • 72 vocational education
    • 803 alternative education
  • Among charter schools, 216 were considered fully virtual and 618 not fully virtual
  • Among magnet schools, 14 were considered fully virtual and 315 not fully virtual

In the 2017-18 school year:

  • 297,712 students were enrolled in 501 full-time virtual schools
  • 132,960 students were enrolled in 300 blended schools (virtual and face to face instruction)
  • 331 virtual schools were considered independent, with 35.6% of enrollment
  • 133 virtual schools were operated by for-profit education management organizations, with 60.1% of enrollment
  • 37 virtual schools were operated by non-profit education management organizations, with 4.3% of enrollment
  • For-profit virtual schools received the lowest ratings (29.8%) but were 4 times as large as other virtual schools, enrolling an average of 1,345 students

K-12: COVID-19 Impact 

 COVID-19 caused school closures that sent over 50 million K-12 students home to learn remotely.

  • Approximately 30% of these students lack adequate digital access for distance learning, with approximately 9 million lacking both internet and devices
  • 5 million parents indicated their children are normally homeschooled

In June 2020, households with children enrolled in public or private school found themselves spending more time on teaching activities. In the 7 days prior to the survey:

  • The average household spent 8 hours, 3.4 hours on live virtual contact between students and teachers, and 7.9 hours spent by children learning activities on their own.
    • Unemployed respondents indicated they spent 8.4 hours on teaching activities with their children compared to 7.8 who were employed
    • Respondents with a bachelor’s degree or higher spent the most time with their children (8.3 hours) followed by those with less than high school or some college (8.2 hours)
  • Households reporting the most and the least income spent the most time with their children:
    • $200,000+ (9.2 hours)
    • Less than $25,000 (8.8 hours

In a poll taken in October 2020, parents of children who continue to receive in-person instruction were most likely to express satisfaction with the way the school is handling instruction during the pandemic.

  • 54% indicated they were very satisfied with in-person instruction only, compared to 29% who indicated they were very satisfied with at least some online instruction
  • Only 21% of parents whose children were receiving in-person instruction were very concerned about their children falling behind, compared to 32% whose children were receiving at least some online instruction
  • During this time, 20% of parents indicated their students were receiving in-person instruction only, 46% were receiving online instruction only, 23% were receiving a mix of in-person and online instruction, and 7% were home-schooled. 4% indicated their children had varying situations.
  • 9% of parents of K-12 students indicated they had hired someone to provide additional instruction
  • 66% of parents of K-12 students indicated they or somebody else in the household was providing additional instruction beyond what the schools were providing:
    • 27% of parents whose children were receiving mixed online/in-person instruction provided a lot of additional instruction, with 39% indicating they had provided some additional instruction.
    • 21% of parents whose children were receiving only online instruction provided a lot of additional instruction, with 51% indicating they had provided some additional instruction
  • Among parents of K-12 students, their concerns have grown about the well-being of their children during the pandemic, and unsurprisingly, the highest percentages were among parents whose children were only receiving online instruction
    • 63% overall were concerned about too much screen time
    • 60% were concerned about maintaining social connections and friendships
    • 59% were concerned about their emotional well-being
    • 58% were concerned about having access to extracurricular activities
    • 52% were concerned about their children not getting enough exercise

In a U.S. Census Bureau survey conducted in February 2021 of the population 18 years and older with children in public or private schools regarding the impact of the pandemic on children’s education and changes to online/distance learning:

  • 4 million indicated classes were moved to a distance learning format utilizing online resources
  • 7 million indicated distance learning was implemented using paper materials sent home
  • 4 million indicated classes were cancelled
  • 8 million indicated that classes were changed in another way
  • 5 million indicated COVID-19 did not affect how their children received education
  • Relative to before COVID-19 pandemic:
    • 6 million indicated that students spent much less time before COVID-19 on all learning activities
    • 4 million indicated students spent a little more time
    • 5 million who indicated students spent as much time as they did before

 In February 2021, academic concerns were seen as a more important factor than health risks when evaluating whether or not to fully re-open schools.

  • In February 2021, 61% of U.S. adults feel that it was more likely students would fall behind academically without in-person instruction, compared to 48% in July 2020
  • 54% were concerned about the possibility that parents would not be able to work if their children remained at home

 School districts and individual schools have been working hard to close the “digital divide.”

In February 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed the population 18 years and older in households with children in public or private schools about the technology available in their homes. We compare this data to the same survey conducted in June 2020.

Computer or digital devices available to children for educational purposes: February 2021 vs. June 2020       

  • 31 million were provided by the children’s school district or school for use outside of school, compared to 21 million in June 2020
  • 26 million were provided by someone in the household or family or it belongs to the child, compared to 42 million in June 2020
  • 772,886 were provided by another source, compared to 1 million in June 2020

Internet available to children for educational purpose:

  • 2 million indicated it is paid for by the school or school district, compared to 1.1 million surveyed in June 2020
  • 46 million indicated it is paid for by someone in the household or family, compared to 53.1 million surveyed in June 2020
  • 543,801 indicated it is paid for by another source, compared to 1.1 million surveyed in June 2020

Closing The Digital Divide 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for advanced telecommunications capability to be expanded further, especially to rural and impoverished areas, tribal lands, and areas that have been affected by disasters.

Students without the ability to research, complete homework, write papers, and communicate with their instructors and other students are more likely to have a lower grade point average and a lower level of digital aptitude. Access to broadband internet and a computer is critical to the success of students in distance learning programs. Full access is considered access to both broadband and a computer.

The FCC has been attempting to close the “digital divide,” with capital expenditures by broadband providers increasing in 2017.

  • The number of Americans with access to at least 250 Mbps/25 Mbps broadband increased in 2017 by more than 36%
  • In 2018, broadband providers deployed fiber to nearly 6 million homes, the largest increase ever recorded.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2018 indicated that nearly one in four children do not have full access to digital technology at home (broadband or a computer) beyond a smartphone.

  • 77% of students in urban households have full access compared to 63% in non-metro/rural areas
  • Mississippi has the highest percentage of underserved students, with 45.9% of its school-age children lacking full access to digital technology
  • New Hampshire has the lowest percentage (13.1%) of school-aged children without access
  • The states with the highest number of school-aged children without access are California (1.5 million), Texas (1.8 million), and Florida (742,000), likely because they are also the most populous.
  • Children whose parents own their homes are more likely to have full access (82%) than those whose parents rent (63%)
  • Children whose parents possess advanced degrees have the most access (91%)

Teachers suddenly found themselves having to rely on the internet to offer remote instruction during COVID-19 where a live connection is critical, and many of them did not have full access.

  • It is estimated that only 85% of teachers have reliable access to broadband internet, with those living in rural areas such as Alaska at an even lower percentage (64%)
  • Most teachers are also expected to pay for internet out of their own pockets

With most distance learning now including videoconferencing, the FCC’s benchmark of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds are considered the minimum for effective distance learning and teaching, however, many classroom and video platforms may require more, particularly if there is more than one child or person in the home studying or working.

The three types of internet that can support distance learning are:

Wired Broadband Wireless (Cellular) Satellite
connects fixed locations (business/residence) using DSL/ADSL, cable, or fiber provides mobile connectivity not requiring a fixed receiver, i.e. a cellphone hotspot connects a fixed location (business/residence) with a communications satellite
  • Most stable connection
  • More installation/infrastructure requirements
  • Not usually available in rural and some suburban areas
  • Mobile but not as stable of a connection as speeds may fluctuate
  • Limited upload/download speeds
  • Requires access to cellular network
  • High latency can result in frequent disruption
  • Most costly option
  • Often used in rural areas with no other service

Throughout the pandemic, school districts and individual schools have been working hard to close the “digital divide.”  In February 2021, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed the population 18 years and older in households with children in public or private schools about the technology available in their homes. We compare this data to the same survey conducted in June 2020.

Computer or digital devices available to children in the home for educational purposes: February 2021 vs. June 2020       

  • 31 million were provided by the children’s school district or school for use outside of school, compared to 21 million in June 2020
  • 26 million were provided by someone in the household or family or it belongs to the child, compared to 42 million in June 2020
  • 772,886 were provided by another source, compared to 1 million in June 2020

Internet available to children for educational purpose in the home:

  • 2 million indicated it is paid for by the school or school district, compared to 1.1 million surveyed in June 2020
  • 46 million indicated it is paid for by someone in the household or family, compared to 53.1 million surveyed in June 2020
  • 543,801 indicated it is paid for by another source, compared to 1.1 million surveyed in June 2020

Barriers to obtaining reliable internet can include higher hardware/installation fees, confusing pricing (discounted rates only for “new” subscribers or limited time only), credit qualifications, availability in public housing, or other eligibility requirements.

Discounts, free internet, and other special circumstances that were available during the earlier months of the COVID-19 pandemic are increasingly no longer available. It is anticipated that the numbers of students who lack connectivity or full access will likely increase when the full price of internet service returns.

Individuals, students, and teachers who relied on public resources such as public libraries, internet cafes, and free internet in other public places have often been denied access once these places were closed due to social distancing.


*Postsecondary Enrollment numbers referenced from IPEDS enrollment reports may include both degree-granting and non-degree-granting institutions, and enrollment numbers referenced from National Student Clearinghouse Research Center only include Title IV, degree-granting institutions.


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