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Roughly half of Class of 2020 seniors say their plans have changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey of 1,000 high school graduates by Junior Achievement and the PMI Educational Foundation.

Christy Biedron, director of College and Career Readiness at Junior Achievement in New Jersey, said the survey also found that a third said they will delay their college start date. A third said they will work and not go to college at all. Half of them said their families depend on their income for living expenses.

Of those planning to go to college, 40% said COVID-19 impacted how they're going to pay for college and 58% are worried how the pandemic is going to affect the quality of their education.

Biedron said teens are making life-changing decisions without having a clear understanding of what college will be like in the fall. There are guidelines out there but there is still an uncertainty.

Previously, students would take a gap year —a break between high school and college — to have an enriching experience, whether it be traveling or working somewhere. But in this case, no one knows what a gap semester will look like, said Biedron. It could be teens sitting at home unsure about what to do next.

Biedron said if a teen is unsure about what school will look like in the fall, they should consider options for continuing an education such as community and state colleges.

Community colleges are forming partnerships with state, local businesses and labor organizations to better prepare students for an ever changing workforce. Many front-line workers in health care were trained at community colleges.

For those planning to attend out-of-state colleges, there is a concern that in the middle of a semester students may have to return home because of COVID-19. This can benefit New Jersey schools, said Biedron.

"Our colleges are saying to students, 'Hey, New Jersey needs your energy, we need your intelligence, we need your commitment. Stay home.' Parents are saying the same thing, too," she said.

She added that New Jersey's county colleges are anticipating a surge in enrollment. The state's four-year universities and colleges are looking at additional transfer students who were previously out of state. While New Jersey state colleges are seeing deposits down by percentage for the fall, Biedron said there's also an increase of students coming back from out of state.

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