Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable College Students During COVID-19 Pandemic

Amid the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, Low-Income Students Face Risk of Homelessness and Hunger

The closure of colleges and universities across the United States poses a problem for students who, without their college dorms, and would have no other housing.

We reported earlier this year with some data around how some American college students face homelessness and housing insecurity.  Some colleges and universities have left dorms and dining hall open after cancelling all in person instruction.  But more and more institutions of higher education are closing dorms and dining halls as the novel coronavirus continues and course transition to online learning.
 
Students who live in dorms may be formerly homeless without homes or do not have families to return to once their dorms close.  Students may also be young adults who have aged out of the foster care system and rely on their schools for rooms and boards.
 
And if students do have a home to return to as they transition from an in-person education to an online education, what if that home is not a safe place?  They may now be at risk of abuse or domestic violence in their home.  Or home may be a place that, for a variety of reason exacerbates or triggers mental health issues that they experience.  
 
And how will students who rely on their on campus work study jobs to pay for food or housing expenses pay for their basic needs going forward?  What if students relied on their campus food pantry or resource center for food and other essentials?  How will they connect with local feeding programs near campus or near their homes?
 
On March 17, 2020, NPR reported on this timely issue in a story, “When Colleges Shut Down, Some Students Have Nowhere To Go.”
 
Sara Goldrick-Rab, founder of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, says in the article that  “Now is the time for colleges to really step up.”
 
“When you’re trying to help a group of people, especially during a crisis, it’s really important to center the most vulnerable people.”
 
What can colleges and universities do to assist students during these uncertain times? Some examples of what institutions of higher education are doing to provide relieve to students include:
 
  • Financial assistance to those who need to travel home
  • Food services for those on campus
  • Food assistance for those off campus
  • Ensuring students have access to WIFI and a laptop

Click here for COVID-19 Pandemic Resources for Service Providers and Advocates.