Continue to College or Not? Coronavirus Creates Uncertainty for Families

Four out of 10 parents of college-bound children say they plan to delay starting college by at least a semester because of the coronavirus pandemic, a national survey found

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The coronavirus pandemic is adding pressure to parents of college-bound high school students who are looking forward to their child's next phase in life – attending a college or a university in the fall.

The choice before them: Send their child off to college as planned or wait for the recovery to take hold.

"I am concerned about what that is going to look like and how we're going to navigate that," said Vanessa Kraus, the mother of 18-year-old Eva, from the Wynnefield neighborhood of Philadelphia.

A national survey commissioned by Center-City-based Brian Communications shows 4 out of 10 parents of college-bound high school seniors plan to delay college by at least a semester.

Kraus says her family will not be counted among those who plan to wait amid the national crisis.

"You take steps forward. You don't move back. Right now, our family decision and where my daughter chooses to go is not going to be predicated on the pandemic," she said.

Eva Kraus is still trying to decide which college to attend after she graduates from the Academy of Notre Dame in Villanova.

two high school seniors
NBC10/Family Photos
Tereze Santamala and Eva Kraus

Greg Santamala's daughter, Tereze, knows exactly where she's headed. The 18-year-old from Northeast Philadelphia will become a third-generation Penn Stater, following in the footsteps of her father and grandmother.

Santamala is relieved his daughter will be only 20 minutes from home when she attends Penn State's Abington campus.

The survey shows 40% of parents with college-bound seniors share a similar sentiment, saying they would now prefer their children to attend a university closer to home. The survey also pointed to a lack of communication between colleges and universities and the parents of incoming freshman about coronavirus.

Six out of 10 respondents said they needed to learn more about how institutions plan to ensure their child's safety next year, with 85% saying they needed more information on how colleges and universities are handling the crisis. 

"I was shocked to see that so many parents have not been communicated with. Eighty-five percent say they're not getting either enough information or any information," Brian Tierney, the CEO of Brian Communications, told NBC10.

Santamala said he hasn't heard anything since a stay-at-home order canceled a planned campus tour in mid-March.

"We're getting no information and we have so many questions," Santamala said. "Will school start on time? What will school look like? Will it start-off with online courses?"

A new reality and a wave of challenges that Vanessa Kraus says will not stop her daughter from launching into college, no matter what that may look like.

"She is going to make those decisions in spite of the pandemic, not because of the pandemic," she said.

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