The global coronavirus pandemic has been disruptive for millions of people, and students have been among those hit hardest: According to a new poll by the nonprofit advocacy group Rise, four out of five community college or university students say their lives have been impacted in a way that goes beyond a sudden shift to digital learning. And plenty of them have reasons to worry.
Rise polled 500 students in the United States and found that 75 percent of respondents are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, or stress as a result of the virus's spread and the social distancing efforts put into place to slow the contagion effect of COVID-19. As MTV News previously reported, many young people who rely on health care services provided by their schools have suddenly found themselves unable to access those resources, given that their campuses have shut down and they've been mandated to evacuate. Others may be worried about paying for mental health services, given their jobs have been cut: Rise found that 52 percent of respondents have been laid off or had their work hours reduced as a result of the current social recession.
Plenty of students have also experienced significant shifts in their own stability, educationally and otherwise. Twenty percent of respondents said they lack access to a mobile device or reliable WiFi, which would negatively impact their abilities to keep up with digital classwork. (Nationwide, an estimated 18 percent of students at all grade levels don't have a computer at home, and there is no universal mandate for whether schools should equip students with those resources.) An additional 28 percent of respondents said they are facing food insecurity in the new normal, and 17 percent said they are without reliable and safe housing now that they've moved away from the dorms or other school housing.
"Even before the outbreak, students were struggling to afford food and housing," Max Lubin, Rise's co-founder and CEO, told MTV News, adding that the organization "kept hearing from students about how the sudden campus closures were causing layoffs and evictions from student housing" around the country. "Students are hurting everywhere," he added.
According to Lubin, the organization has heard from students that their family members are also experiencing hardship. "One story that I found especially devastating was a student who had been laid off from a campus job and whose parents work at another campus that also closed and laid off many of its workers. Suddenly, their entire family is without income and no clear path to get help," he said.
The organization has teamed up with Swipe Out Hunger to lobby Congress on behalf of students who need emergency financial aid, but Lubin stressed that schools should also do their part to support their students. Since the outbreak ramped up, many schools have indicated that they would move to a pass-fail system to better support students, and others have set up new systems through which students can apply for financial aid. Even so, a lot of students feel like they are being forced to navigate their new normal alone — and in isolation.
"It’s creating a huge amount of anxiety, and everyone is in a stage of collective mourning,” Brittney Dorton, the Student Government Vice President of Administration at the University of Chicago, previously told MTV News. “We’ll be isolated from our support systems for the foreseeable future." Most schools have not yet announced when they plan to reopen their campuses.
You can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Not everyone has the option to stay at home, but if you can, you should! Social distancing is the new normal, and we’re here to help.