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These are featured stories of how the Upper Delta and Mid-South is combating the Coronavirus as well as resources to help those impacted by the pandemic.

'Emotional Stress' Impacting Arkansas College Students, Report Finds

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More than half of all unenrolled adults report that the cost of a college degree is a major factor in why they have not continued their education.

In the wake of disruptions and losses due to COVID-19, research showed the majority of college students in Arkansas and beyond who left school over the past two years want to return.

The report from Gallup and Lumina Foundation surveyed more than 11,000 current students, others who recently "stopped out," and prospective college students. It found difficult coursework was a significant factor for those who left school in 2021.

Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup, said for traditional-age college students, the stress of being isolated in their last years of high school left them less prepared to go into a college setting.

"So, we see high levels of coursework difficulty for students who report they've considered stopping out for that reason," Marken reported. "Many students who wouldn't traditionally be struggling to persist, through even a first-year curriculum, really struggling to do so. So, we also see a huge need for academic support."

Arkansas received more than $400 million from the American Rescue Plan for colleges and universities, part of which supported students experiencing mental-health challenges during the pandemic.

The report also found for those who stayed in school, their confidence in the advantages of receiving a degree is a big part of why they stayed.

Courtney Brown, vice president of impact and planning for the Lumina Foundation, said current and prospective students see how degrees can help them increase their knowledge and pay.

"High percentages said that they know they need a degree or certificate to gain skills, to get a job," Brown explained. "The survey actually shows that there is a great value in higher education, and that is even for people who have never been part of higher education."

The report found multiracial bachelor's and associate-degree students were the most likely groups to say it was difficult to stay in school in the last year. Many cited the high cost of college and the need for financial aid to finish their studies.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.