Students are the greatest hope for the future, but for many, their plans are threatened due to burdens posed by COVID-19. Here are just a few of the issues students and families face today, and steps being taken to address these concerns:
The digital divide: Recent images of two Latino children doing their online schoolwork in a Silicon Valley restaurant parking lot calls attention to the deepening digital divide in the COVID-19 era. Nationwide, 16.9 million lack the home internet access necessary to support online learning. A phenomenon known as the “homework gap,” this issue disproportionately impacts students of color. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, one out of three Black, Latino, and Native American/Alaska Native households does not have access to a home internet connection and one in six does not have access to a computer or device.
Housing insecurity: For students in the LGBTQ community, campus closures have sometimes meant the loss of in-school counseling and the support of like-minded, accepting peers. When “home” is an unwelcoming or even unsafe environment, students can be at a greater risk for depression, anxiety, abuse, and homelessness.
Educational barriers: Distance learning creates new educational hurdles. With parents taking on an unprecedented instructional role, language barriers for non-English speaking parents can prove significant, like for Asian and Latino immigrants. What’s more, certain programming for students with disabilities, including speech and physical therapy, can be tough, if not impossible, to provide virtually. Lastly, certain learning disabilities can make virtual lessons especially difficult to follow.
Military family and school options: Continued access to quality education has always been a concern for military families, who often have no choice but to send their children to the nearest public school, whether it’s the right fit or not. Today, this problem has grown in severity, as the level and quality of remote instruction can vary wildly among school districts.
Lack of financial resources: Despite the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, colleges and universities are largely maintaining or increasing their tuition costs, leaving financially struggling students and families in a lurch.
Efforts to Help
In the face of today’s many unprecedented challenges, help is on the way. New emergency grants are being provided by organizations like UNCF, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, APIA Scholars, Point Foundation for LBGTQ youth, American Indian Graduate Center, Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Scholarship America for military veterans and people with disabilities. Career sites like Zippia offer annual scholarship lists for students such as this curated list for LBGTQ college students: zippia.com.
Additionally, organizations like Wells Fargo recently completed their new Wells Fargo Student Impact Scholarship in September 2020 to help students impacted by COVID-19. This initiative will provide 200 students with $5,000 each in funds, which could help them cover various costs for their instruction and potentially make the difference in being able to continue their education. Since 2010, Wells Fargo has provided more than $87.8 million across all higher education programs and sponsored events. For additional resources, visit the Beyond College Webinar Series for online training modules for students and recent graduates at collegesteps.wf.com.
While the hardships of the COVID-19 era can make it incredibly difficult to be academically successful or even continue school at all, new efforts are helping close the gap during this difficult time.