ORLANDO, Fla. — According to a recent census survey 16 million Americans have canceled plans to attend college during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most common reasons were fear of contracting the virus and the inability to pay bills associated with going to school.

What You Need To Know

  • Some area schools saw enrollment numbers drop for the fall

  • Fall enrollment numbers are generally up, officials said

  • The most common reasons for not attending school were worries about the virus and the cost

For University of Central Florida theater major Shannon Motherwell, the show can only kind of go on. Originally scheduled for 17 credit hours this fall at UCF, due to the pandemic she dropped that number to two.

“Although my teachers did the best they could putting everything online, I didn’t feel like I was getting as much education as I could have been getting," Motherwell said.

Her graduation date has now been pushed back because she is holding out hope she can soon go back to a more traditional college experience.

“All of our scheduled shows got moved to Zoom readings online," Motherwell said. "We are still getting workouts there, but it is definitely different and a challenge to get the same performance options.”

According to UCF, the school's total fall enrollment is slightly higher than last year. The university officials said about 92 percent of freshmen enrolled a year ago returned to school, and that summer 2020 enrollment was also up 7 percent over last year.

Valencia College officials said they are also up 2 percent this fall, and they say a large part of that is because of an option they created in the spring called R-20 or "Retake 2020."

Valencia College Provost Kathleen Plinske said the school created the grade option R-20 during this past spring semester.

“Any student who chose that retake option had the opportunity this past summer and this fall to retake any of those classes they elected that option for no additional cost,” she said.

Seminole State College officials said they saw a dip in the fall from an unexpected group.

“The decline we are seeing in first-time college students is about 7 percent,” said Seminole State College president Dr. Georgia Lorenz.

But like UCF, summer enrollment at Seminole State was also up. 

At all schools the majority of classes are being offered online, which is the reason Motherwell is taking fewer classes now, to hopefully be back on campus more in the spring.

“It’s like a ghost town, it's so sad,” she said from an empty UCF campus. 

Stetson and Rollins College officials said their fall 2020 enrollment numbers were each down less than 50 students, so they didn’t see a noticeable difference. Stetson officials said they received about 1,000 fewer applicants this summer.

We did reach out to Bethune Cookman University, but they didn’t get back to us for this report.