Publication Date



Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis


In the wake of COVID-19, universities and schools of social work face unprecedented challenges and uncertainty in aligning their academic models with public heath protocols and best practices, while prioritizing the safety and well-being of their students. In order to best respond to these challenges and uncertainty, more research is needed to advance a greater understanding of (1) what challenges students face, (2) who is most at risk and impacted by these challenges, and (3) how universities can best support students. Through a survey administered during the spring 2020 semester at a large research university in the Midwest, we explored the attitudes, experiences, and needs of graduate students in social work, public health, and social policy programs. We observed notable disparities by race and ethnicity, international student status, first-generation student status, and gender. Additionally, our survey results suggest that protective factors, such as university and social supports, may inform how students navigate and cope with the challenges related to or exacerbated by the pandemic. In addition to advancing a better understanding of student experiences during COVID-19, our findings build on the previous research that highlights the distinct needs and disparate impacts of vulnerable student populations in higher education.

Acknowledgements: An original survey instrument was created at Hebrew University and was modified and shared openly with other interested Universities.

Document Type

Working Paper