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COVID, Bad Economy Push Soaring Numbers of Young Americans Back Home, Study Finds

Students and parents begin to move students' belongings out of Bragaw Hall at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Aug. 27, 2020, in response to coronavirus clusters on campus.
Students and parents begin to move students' belongings out of Bragaw Hall at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., Aug. 27, 2020, in response to coronavirus clusters on campus.

The number of adult children who have had to move back home with their parents is at a level not seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s, according to a new study.

A majority of 18- to 29-year-olds have moved home because of the coronavirus pandemic, subsequent shutdowns and quarantines, and job losses, a Pew Research Center study found.

“Young adults have been particularly hard-hit by this year’s pandemic and economic downturn, and have been more likely to move than other age groups,” study authors Richard Fry, Jeffrey Passel and D’Vera Cohn wrote Friday.

The number tipped into the majority in July, when 52% of young adults reported having moved home. In February, when the coronavirus pandemic started in the U.S. in earnest, 47% of young adults were living with their parents. The study comes from Pew’s analysis of monthly Census Bureau data.

That 52% equates to 26.6 million young adults of all racial and ethnic groups, both genders, urban and rural areas, according to Pew. But, the study authors said, growth was “sharpest,” for young white adults ages 18 to 24.

At the end of the Great Depression — an economic decline sparked by a stock market crash in 1929 that lasted a decade — 48% of young adults had moved in with their parents. The authors cautioned that some data were lacking for that period.

“The pattern is consistent with employment losses since February. The youngest adults have been more likely than other age groups to lose their jobs or take a pay cut,” Pew reported. “The share of 16- to 24-year-olds who are neither enrolled in school nor employed more than doubled from February (11%) to June (28%) due to the pandemic and consequent economic downturn.”

Because unmarried college students who live in dorms are counted by the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey as living with their parents, their moving home because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, this spring would not register. Students who lived off campus and returned home would, however, Cohn said in an email to VOA.

But this year, the increase in young adults living with their parents in the summer was much sharper than usual — 5 percentage points higher in July than in February, compared with 2 percentage points for the same period in 2019, Cohn said.

In a July 6 report Cohn authored for Pew, "Among all adults who moved due to the pandemic, 23% said the most important reason was because their college campus had closed, and 18% said it was due to job loss or other financial reasons."

And while Asian, Black and Hispanic young adults have been more likely to live with their parents than white young adults, that gap has narrowed since February, Pew stated.

“In fact, whites accounted for about two-thirds (68%) of the increase in young adults living with their parents. As of July, more than half of Hispanic (58%) and Black (55%) young adults now live with their parents, compared with about half of white (49%) and Asian (51%) young adults,” the study found.

While both young women and men have “experienced increases in the number and share of residing with Mom, Dad or both parents since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak,” young men are more likely to be home than young women, the report stated.

Urban young adults are more likely than rural young adults to have returned home, but both groups experienced increases.

“Growth was sharpest in the South, where the total rose by more than a million and the share increased by 6 percentage points, from 46% to 52%,” Pew reported. “But the Northeast retained its status as the region where the highest share of young adults live with their parents (57%).”

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Paper: International students faced extra pandemic challenges

FILE - Jackson State University student Kendra Daye reacts as Tameiki Lee, a nurse with the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, injects her with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, in Jackson, Miss., Sept. 21, 2021.
FILE - Jackson State University student Kendra Daye reacts as Tameiki Lee, a nurse with the Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, injects her with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, in Jackson, Miss., Sept. 21, 2021.

Astrobites, which describes itself as "a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students in astronomy since 2010," focuses on the challenges international students faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It examines a paper published in the Journal of Comparative & International Higher Education entitled The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on International Students in a Public University in the United States: Academic and Non-academic Challenges.

Read the Astrobites article here. (April 2024)

15 cheapest US universities for international students

FILE - A cyclist crosses an intersection on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.
FILE - A cyclist crosses an intersection on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.

Yahoo!Finance has compiled a list of the 15 cheapest U.S. universities for international students.

Among them: Arizona State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Michigan State University.

Read the list here. (March 2024)

Studying STEM? International students have funding options

FILE - Founder & CEO Uma Valeti peers into one of the cultivation tanks at the Upside Foods plant, where lab-grown meat is cultivated, in Emeryville, California, Jan. 11, 2023.
FILE - Founder & CEO Uma Valeti peers into one of the cultivation tanks at the Upside Foods plant, where lab-grown meat is cultivated, in Emeryville, California, Jan. 11, 2023.

US News & World Report takes a look at funding options for international students pursuing STEM degrees in the U.S.

The article explains the different kinds of scholarships and grants and offers tips on getting part-time jobs and private student loans. Read the full story here. (March 2024)

US campuses are battlegrounds in free speech debate

Students hold up a photo of University of Southern California 2024 valedictorian Asna Tabassum in protest to her canceled commencement speech on the campus of University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, April 18, 2024.
Students hold up a photo of University of Southern California 2024 valedictorian Asna Tabassum in protest to her canceled commencement speech on the campus of University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, April 18, 2024.

This week the University of Southern California canceled the graduation speech of its senior class valedictorian at a time when there is a growing debate over the limits of free speech on American college campuses.

USC’s Asna Tabas­sum, a Muslim biomedical engineer major, was selected from among 100 outstanding students to address the graduating class of 2024 this May. However, the school withdrew the invitation for her to speak at the graduation ceremony citing safety concerns.

Tabassum denounced the decision, which she attributed to her public support for Palestinian human rights. She said it is part of “a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.”

Students carrying signs protest a canceled commencement speech by its 2024 valedictorian who has publicly supported Palestinians on the campus of University of Southern California, April 18, 2024.
Students carrying signs protest a canceled commencement speech by its 2024 valedictorian who has publicly supported Palestinians on the campus of University of Southern California, April 18, 2024.

The school maintains it is a safety issue, not about free speech. School officials say they received an alarming number of violent threats after selecting her as speaker.

USC is one of many American universities that have struggled with policies over free speech and campus protest since October’s Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the continuing fighting in Gaza. After weeks or months of on-campus protests and rallies, schools have been taking more forceful action to punish protesters who administrators say have become disruptive.

On Thursday at Columbia University in New York, police arrested more than 100 students who had gathered on campus for pro-Palestinian protests. The school’s dean wrote that the protesters had been told several times that they were violating university policies and would be suspended. The students say they were exercising their free speech rights.

At Washington’s American University, protests in all campus buildings have been banned by the school’s president since January. Under the new policy, students may not hold rallies, engage in silent protests or place posters in any campus building.

Protests and safety

University students have a long history of engaging in political activism. From the Vietnam War to abortion rights, universities have played a key role in American political debates.

However, students now say that schools like AU with a long-standing protest culture are silencing protesters with new rules.

Arusa Islam, American University student body president-elect and current vice president, says the policies are preventing an open discussion about U.S. foreign policy.

“Indoor protesting was never a problem, it was never an issue before October 7th,” Islam said. “Students were allowed to put up posters in buildings and students were allowed to have a silent protest.”

“And now we don’t have that right anymore,” she added. “We have been silenced and it is affecting us greatly.”

American University’s president, Sylvia Burwell, says the school’s new policies are intended to ensure that protests do not disrupt university activity.

Burwell also referred to recent events on campus that “made Jewish students feel unsafe and unwelcome.” She added, antisemitism is abhorrent, wrong, and will not be tolerated at American University.

While administrators insist that they are making narrow restrictions in the interests of providing an education, critics say the policies have a far-reaching effect.

At Cornell University, where new rules took effect in January, Claire Ting, the executive vice president of the Cornell Student Assembly, said the policies have had an unsettling effect on campus.

“The campus climate at Cornell has been tense surrounding free speech in recent times,” Ting emailed VOA.

Ting said that both students and faculty feel the policy has had chilling effects on free expression.

“Students report facing arbitrary, escalating punishment for violating the policy, with the policy itself lacking clear outlines for the consequences of civil disobedience,” she added.

In its new policy Cornell warns students that disciplinary action may be taken if protests impede people or traffic, damage school property or interfere with the school’s operations in any way.

In its campus-wide notice explaining the new guidelines, the school wrote that the new policy would ensure that expressive activity is allowed but must remain nonviolent.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, also known as FIRE, has tracked free speech issues on American campuses.

FIRE and College Pulse have produced an annual survey, since 2022, ranking colleges based on their policies and what students say about the free speech climate on campus.

This year the group reported that “alarming” numbers of students say they self-censor or “find their administrations unclear” on free speech issues.

“College campuses have always been places where students have been unafraid to express themselves and with the recent Gaza conflict after the 10/7 attacks, it’s been very heated on both sides of this issue,” said Zach Greenberg, the senior program officer of FIRE.

Harvard ranked last in this year’s survey. FIRE said the school punished some professors and researchers over what they had said or written, and students reported a poor climate for free speech on campus.

The controversy came to Congress late last year, when Harvard’s president testified over complaints of widespread antisemitism.

Israel-Hamas War Brings Controversy to US Campuses  
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“I don’t think you’d find many students on campus right now that would say we are the model for flourishing free speech and ideas exchange in the country,” said J. Sellers Hill, president of Harvard’s school newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

“But I think you’ve really seen that be acknowledged by administrators and it seems to be something they are dedicated to taking on.”

As the head of The Harvard Crimson, Hill manages the paper’s 350 editors and 90 reporters, who’ve covered, in detail, the ongoing free speech/protests controversy and the resignation of former President Claudine Gay following her testimony to Congress.

“I think no one would dispute Harvard has work to do and progress to make,” Hill said. “I think it’s a tough sell, for me, that Harvard is uniquely in its own league in terms of intolerance of speech. That doesn’t square with what I have seen on our college campus or on other college campuses around the country. I think Harvard is held to a higher standard.”

Proposed settlement offered over financial aid allegations

FILE - The Yale University campus is in New Haven, Connecticut, on Dec. 4, 2023. A group of colleges and universities - including Yale - have agreed to settle allegations of deceptive deceptive financial aid tactics, according to a report published in The Hill.
FILE - The Yale University campus is in New Haven, Connecticut, on Dec. 4, 2023. A group of colleges and universities - including Yale - have agreed to settle allegations of deceptive deceptive financial aid tactics, according to a report published in The Hill.

A group of U.S. colleges and universities have agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging deceptive financial aid tactics, according to a report published in The Hill.

The schools would pay $284 million to plaintiffs who were enrolled full-time and received financial aid between 2003 and 2024.

The schools have denied the allegations. (April 2024)

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