Students are Still Worried: COVID-19 and Post Secondary Education

Executive Summary

This paper is a summary of public opinion research that surveyed post secondary students across Canada in May 2020. The results of the research provide a snapshot of the experience and effect of COVID-19 on the student population, identifies key concerns and priorities, and provides insights into how students are feeling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

This public opinion research was commissioned by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and conducted by Abacus Data

Key Findings

Covid 19 for Students

  • As is to be expected, 60% of students say coronavirus is making them worried. This worry was tied to region, (students in Quebec and Atlantic provinces report much less worry), gender (women are more worried than men), international student status (more worried than domestic students), and those identifying as members of visible minorities reporting more worry.
  • Of the federal government support to date, 52% of students said the support they are receiving from the federal government has been good or very good; however, this is 17 points lower than their rating of support for Canadians overall.
  • Confusion remains regarding eligibility for benefits. Only 47% of students report they are sure they are eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. Other government programs tested had even lower values reported on eligibility and 28% aren’t sure or aren’t eligible for any programs.
  • Students are worried about the upcoming academic year, with 61% reporting the current government support isn’t enough to help them through the upcoming academic year.
  • 85% of respondents said the federal government should do more to support students and 73% say they would support extending support to international students.

Mental Health

  • Over 70% of respondents reported they have felt stressed, anxious, or isolated due to the pandemic.
  • 82% reported worry about their futures beyond the pandemic.
  • Students are reporting more stress about everything from their health, finances, and future.

Financial Strain

  • Students have already faced, are currently facing, and will continue to face financial struggles as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic until at least Winter 2021
  • Two thirds have seen COVID-19 have an impact on their own finances, and the finances of their parents/family.  
  • This financial pressure has caused nearly all students to rearrange financing for the fall. Only 12% aren’t making any changes. 45% say they will be relying more on government loans.  
  • 75% say the pandemic will change their employment situation beyond this year.
  • 75% say it will have a lasting impact on their own financial situation beyond 2020.
  • 64% reported they are eligible for either the CESB or CERB, but most don’t think it will be enough to get them through the Fall 2020 semester, let alone beyond.

Returning to Courses

  • The pandemic has made some students reconsider their fall plans: 41% have considered or already delayed/deferred their fall semester.
  • 31% have considered or have already switched to part-time studies.
  • The decision to defer, or switch to part-time is due to concerns about value, access to support, and accessibility.

Online Learning & Accessibility

  • 90% have experienced remote learning in the past semester.  A majority do not feel online learning offers the same value, learning experiences, or support as its in-class equivalent.
  • Ease of access is also a concern: 43% its not as easy to complete assignments/exams, and 30% its not as easy to access their classes
  • Students have identified many concerns they have about an online semester including access to support, value, and accessibility.
  • Concerns about value, support services, and accessibility are greater among students who have or are considering deferring or switching to part-time (compared to those who are not).  That said, it is important to note that students who plan to return are still concerned about these aspects of an online semester.


The survey was conducted online with 1,000 Canadian post secondary students from May 14 to May 23, 2020. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The data weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s post secondary population according to age, gender, language, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.



The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations advocates for better post-secondary education and aims to improve the lives of students. L'Alliance canadienne des associations étudiantes défend les intérêts des étudiant(e)s.
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Students are Still Worried: COVID-19 and Post Secondary Education
Students are Still Worried: COVID-19 and Post Secondary Education
@CASAACAE unites and amplifies the voices of post-secondary students across Canada. Find out more!