Larkin McReynolds, Assistant Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
As the world is facing unprecedented events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, over 15 million of our nation’s most healthy individuals, namely college/university students, are unwittingly positioned to experience an infinite number of immediate and long-lasting consequences to their health, mental health, academic and post-graduate careers. It is imperative, therefore, that we document the immediate and long-term impact of this pandemic, as students navigate these uncertain times. Our national “COVID-19 Higher Ed Student Impact Study” will conduct a series of online surveys with students enrolled in a geographically, institutionally, and ethnically diverse set of US colleges/universities. Our survey will inquire not only about behavioral and physical health, but also salient, academic, and economic circumstances and concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic that are shaping students’ lives now and in the future. College/university leadership will be asked to immediately send a school-wide email notification informing students about our study and will include a weblink for students to complete the online survey. To obtain a true understanding, over time, of consequences to their lives, students will be asked to participate in a series of follow-up surveys (6 and 12-months post-pandemic onset in the US). To provide immediate feedback regarding students’ responses to inquiries about their substance use, mental health, academic, and financial needs and concerns, we plan to generate monthly school-specific and aggregate descriptive reports of survey responses. Study findings are not only certain to inform ongoing health services and academic responses to student needs, but also identify ways that service providers and academic institutions can better respond to these needs now, and in the event of another global pandemic such as we are currently experiencing.