OU, OSU seeing spike in first-year students asking for ‘gap year’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 is driving more and more newly admitted students to postpone attending the state’s two largest universities.

As of Aug. 8, the University of Oklahoma had already seen an 85% increase in requests for deferred enrollments at 89, compared to 48 total for 2019-20.

And at Oklahoma State, deferrals are up 88% to 75, compared to 40 last year — but officials there said given the current climate, they think things could be much worse.

Kyle Wray, vice president of enrollment and brand management at OSU, said the pandemic has made the fall 2020 enrollment season fraught with uncertainty.

“Fear is a powerful and motivating factor in so many decisions we make in life. Going to college is a big decision,” said Wray. “It has been a rough year. We shut everything down in March and we sent everyone home. Almost every aspect of higher education is up in the air.”

Whereas admissions decisions would typically be locked down by the first week in August, Wray said many more people are facing new challenges that have made college enrollment much more unpredictable this year.

“Normally, we would have everyone come at once, but we are checking in students in waves to be as safe as possible. You’ll have some we expected to show up today and they won’t because of things going on in their lives and families,” he said. “You have families having discussions about affordability and the effects of COVID-19 on parent salaries and student salaries. I mean, we had students with income from jobs in March, waiting tables for example, that they don’t have anymore.

“There will be people who wake up tomorrow morning and will go, ‘I think I ought to go to college.’ And we’ll have some who were going to go somewhere else, who now want to come to Oklahoma State.”

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