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COVID-19:  California Community College Student Challenges

Student Senate for California Community Colleges Survey Report - May 2020 

Executive Summary

In March 2020, the California Community Colleges system moved all instruction from both physical and online environments to online because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the governor’s requirement for Californians to shelter in place. The change to this new learning environment for most community college students caused a significant disruption in how students learn. The Student Senate for California Community College (SSCCC) Board of Directors surveyed students to better understand the challenges they are facing and to better advocate on their behalf. Over 1,690 students from 64 colleges responded to the survey. The results of this survey will be shared with students, system partners, constituent groups, and other interested parties. 

Key Findings

  • Challenges reported by students because of Covid-19 were as follows:

    • The top three responses from students regarding challenges they are facing were higher levels of anxiety, stress, depression, and/or any other mental distress than usual (67%, n=1140), doing well besides from having to adapt to online learning (41%, n = 691), and income loss (40%, n = 671).

    • Many of the students who reported higher levels of anxiety also reported loss of income (45%, n = 508), an inability to pay their mortgage/rent/utilities (27%, n = 305), and having to drop one or more courses due to financial or other reasons (26%, n = 294).

    • Of the students who indicated they were doing well other than having to adapt to the online environment, many revealed that although they felt they were doing well overall, they suffered from anxieties and stresses because of the online environment and life circumstances.

  • Areas where students could use SSCCC’s help include the following:

    • Forty-five percent (764) of the students responded to this question. The top three types of assistance indicated included assistance with financial aid or needed grants and funds (22%, n = 169), considerations to make online courses better for students (19%, n = 143), and general comments related to advocacy, communication, or community needs (13%, n = 97).

Conclusion and SSCCC Commitment

The SSCCC survey was conducted to understand the challenges students are experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the survey results, students are struggling with the move to an all-online environment, particularly those who depend on the services available to them through campus-based resources such as library, counseling, EOPS, college jobs, financial aid, grants, and health services. In addition, students who do well in a face-to-face environment may not do as well in an online environment and need additional resources to help them transition, including clear expectations, ability to engage with faculty, and consistency as well as leniency. The survey provides important information that will help the SSCCC better advocate for, communicate with, and support students across the state. The SSCCC is committed to increasing support for students by advocating for more resources to help them succeed, communicating student needs broadly, and keeping students informed. 

The SSCCC is committed to serving students and will continue to provide an opportunity for them to communicate their challenges as well as provide them a forum to let their voices be heard. 


As the SSCCC considered the survey results and comments, the SSCCC recommends the following to some of our system partners: 

Chancellor’s Office

  • Maintain direct and regular communication with the SSCCC to ensure that the student voice is heard and respected regarding decisions made due to the COVID-19 crisis.

  • Ensure that student representatives are included on all committees and task forces that develop recommendations or make decisions regarding college and system operations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Local District and College Administrations

  • Ensure that student representatives are included on all committees and task forces and in all discussions intended to develop recommendations or make decisions regarding district or college policies, processes, and procedures during the COVID-19 crisis.

Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC)

  • Establish a direct liaison connection to the SSCCC in order to ensure that student perspectives are being included in the development of ASCCC recommendations.

  • Work with the SSCCC to help inform faculty statewide of student challenges and needs regarding the online environment.

  • Work with SSCCC to help both students and faculty statewide develop a mutual understanding of the need to balance accommodating student needs during the COVID-19 crisis with maintaining standards and fulfilling course requirements.

Download the full report here.