Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Following up on Monday's story about the pandemic's impact on the ability of school children in vulnerable communities to get the technology they need to attend classes remotely, here's another article on Covid's impact on college students, especially those attending community colleges. In particular, low income college students are being hit especially hard due to the loss of jobs, a decrease in financial aid, and a lack of internet access and the devices needed to attend classes remotely (BTW, you can help by donating to students any laptops no longer being used here).
Some low-income students have dropped out, and there are growing concerns about hunger and homelessness.
Michelle Macario was struggling to follow online classes through the tiny screen of her smartphone. She had no laptop and no Wi-Fi at home, and the library where she normally studied at her community college in Los Angeles was closed. So two weeks into the coronavirus shutdown in the spring, she dropped all of her courses to avoid failing.
Things are not much better this semester. Ms. Macario, 18, who is majoring in psychology at Santa Monica College, left the crowded apartment in Los Angeles that she shared with her immigrant family from Guatemala and has been crashing with her sister and friends. But the Wi-Fi is unreliable, she is living too far away from her hospital internship, and she toils to tap out exams and homework on her phone.
“Between the internet, Covid and couch surfing, I haven’t been able to do a good semester,” Ms. Macario said.
Trapped between the financial hardships of the pandemic and the technological hurdles of online learning, the millions of low-income college students across America face mounting obstacles in their quests for higher education. Some have simply dropped out, as Ms. Macario did previously, while others are left scrambling to find housing and internet access amid campus closures and job losses.
“Every part of this pandemic is hitting low-income students hardest, and they were already in bad shape to begin with,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, the founding director of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, which studies the economic challenges facing college students.
Some colleges and universities have increased financial aid to students in need, but others, facing their own financial challenges, have said they cannot afford to offer more. A federal stimulus package passed in March that provided $7 billion for student expenses such as food, housing and health care has largely been depleted, and Republicans have balked at passing further relief proposed by Democrats. President Trump pulled out of and then tried to restart negotiations for additional aid last week.
The impact on struggling students can be seen most clearly at the nation’s roughly 1,400 community colleges, where nearly half of students start seeking degrees. Enrollment there declined by 8 percent this fall, compared with a 2.5 percent drop in undergraduate enrollment over all, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in Herndon, Va., which tracks college enrollment data.
The decline amounts to about half a million fewer community college students, said Martha Parham, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges, an advocacy group in Washington. Unlike in previous economic recessions, when community colleges saw a surge in enrollment, the pandemic has had the opposite effect.
Most community college students work, Ms. Parham said, and many are parents. Home internet access and computers are sometimes unaffordable for them.
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