College and Career Paths in a COVID World

A survey conducted in May 2020 by the Florida College Access Network begins to reveal some of the effects of COVID-19 on workforce and higher education. Most immediately relevant to Future Ready Collier, the pandemic is negatively impacting students’ post-high school plans. The data indicate that students already pursuing postsecondary education of some kind, and current or graduating high school students exploring their next steps, are being affected.

Survey Data Show Effects on Floridians’ College and Career Plans

Among survey respondents, 42% of students currently enrolled in postsecondary school are changing course. This may include taking a semester or a year off, starting sooner than planned, or transferring to a different school. Among families with high school juniors or seniors, 1 in 4 are reassessing their options. Of that group, 31% postponed existing plans, 27% decided to attend a program closer to home, and 22% opted to follow a less costly path.

Within the workforce, 58% of Floridians surveyed said they have lost some or all of their employment and wages as a result of COVID-19. Another 8% say they’re worried this might happen to them. The highest rates of job and income loss are among working adults with a high school degree or less. By comparison, relative to the results gathered by the Florida College Access Network, 40% of those with a master’s degree or higher have experienced a similar reduction or loss.

Results of a survey from the Florida College Access Network indicate COVID-19 is having an effect on Floridians’ college and career plans.

Related, about 35% of those who responded state that they believe they may need additional education or training to find a new job with the same level of income. This statement rated strongly among those with a high school degree or less (41%), workforce certificate or license (36%), or an associate’s degree (44%). In stark contrast, 14% of those with a master’s degree, and 28% of those with a bachelor’s degree, share this concern.

Data Relate to Future Ready Collier’s Mission

While the survey was limited to 1500 respondents, the Florida College Access Network is confident in the importance of the trends identified. Importantly for Future Ready Collier, these responses underscore the necessity of helping all Floridians have access to information and options when it comes to their education and career. Future Ready Collier partners acknowledge that improving education and training will benefit the economy in myriad, significant ways.

High School Resources

At the high school level, it is imperative that all students complete a Free Application for Financial Aid during senior year. For each year the student needs financial aid, they will have to submit a FAFSA. This is the primary way for students to get scholarship and financial support of all kinds. There are online resources from Champions for Learning about how to apply.

College Resources

Southwest Florida has great post-high school education and training programs. Staff at Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Southwestern State College, and Lorenzo Walker Technical College are eager to help current and prospective students find the right fit, in a way that’s sustainable and affordable. Both during and beyond postsecondary training, the Greater Naples Chamber and others work steadily on creating internship opportunities, and establishing connections between employers and educators.

The Community is Here to Help

In addition to the extensive, and troubling, practical harm done by COVID-19 to individuals and families, there is an overwhelming personal side to the story. Not only are jobs at risk, but so are dreams and expectations. The data collected by the Florida College Access Network call attention to already persistent themes—how do we better empower our students and workers to achieve their school and career goals? Future Ready Collier and its 60-plus partners are there to help. These resources mentioned above, and so many more, are only ever a click away. However long the road ahead, it’s easier together.



Prepared by Caroline Ridgway of C1B1 Communications.