Public Viewpoint: Enrolling in Education: Motivations, Barriers, and Expectations

Released July 15, 2020

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The COVID-19 crisis continues to touch nearly every aspect of American life, but the latest Strada Public Viewpoint research shows Americans’ interest in online learning would be significant with or without the effect of the pandemic. In this week’s findings, Strada Center for Consumer Insights shares

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt lives across the nation, many American adults—about 1 in 4, the latest Strada Public Viewpoint survey shows—say they plan to enroll in education or training within the next six months. This week’s report seeks to answer questions such as: What are Americans’ motivations for pursuing education and training? What are their perceived barriers to enrollment? And what are their expectations about the costs and benefits of postsecondary education?

The nationally representative Public Viewpoint survey, with more than 14,000 responses collected between March 25 and July 23, is intended to provide insights to the education and training providers, policymakers, employers, and individual Americans who are navigating the COVID-19 crisis. This week’s analysis also integrates data from more than 14,000 Americans who participated in the spring 2020 Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey.

Three in 10 Americans say that even if COVID-19 was not a threat, they’d prefer an online-only learning option.


Americans identify three primary challenges to enrolling:

Competing obligations and logistics. More than half (55%) say work and family commitments, course schedules, and transportation are major concerns.

Self-doubt. Nearly half (49%) fear they won’t be successful students or have been out of school too long.

Cost. Nearly half (48%) say cost is an extremely or very challenging barrier to enrolling.


Nearly half of women would choose an exclusively online option if they enrolled in the next six months.


Many adults without degrees or credentials (42%) say they were very or extremely interested in education or training after high school, but nearly two-thirds of them (64%) say they didn’t have a good understanding of how to pay for it.