Being A College Student During A Pandemic Sucks And Here’s Why
Posted by Taylor Charles
September 27, 2021
As a college student, I ask myself two questions quite often. The first question is “Do I have anything due tonight?” and the second is “Does anyone else feel this way?” Being sent home from school due to the Covid-19 pandemic as a college freshman and coming back to a fully open campus (still in a pandemic by the way) as a junior has been incredibly difficult. My grades are not nearly as good as they once were, my social skills are borderline embarrassing, and my mental health has definitely been better. However, something that has been reassuring but also deeply concerning is that other college students are feeling like this too. Since the pandemic, college students are experiencing higher levels of food insecurity, emotional, and financial stress than ever before. The worst part about this is that nothing is being done about it.
I work on campus at my school which means that I have quite a few strange interactions with many different students weekly. Last week, I had an interaction with a student that actually inspired this post. I was at work when a student came up to my register holding very intense eye contact with me. The student then asks me “Do you get paid enough to stop me if I leave this location without paying for this item?”I was immediately taken back by the question because it just seemed absurd to answer. The student could tell that I thought this question was absurd because they immediately followed that question up with “My meal plan has already run out and I can’t get groceries until next week, please help me out”. I let the student go with the food and pondered on the interaction for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence for me. Since opening back up, there has been a much heavier flow of students on campus than there was last year. The problem with this is that many of the dining options on campus are not available to students as they were shut down because of COVID. The prices of meal plans have also increased since the pandemic. Some students may have dietary restrictions that may prevent them from eating at the few dining options on campus, some students may be scarce financially because all of their money goes to the required food plan that they can not use. This leaves students with either money they can’t spend or no money to eat at all which is a problem.
Everyone knows that it is hard to study on an empty stomach. On top of having to worry about their next meal, many college students are also failing classes due to increased stress levels during a pandemic. When schools first shut down and moved online both students and faculty were greatly affected. Instructors had to learn how to alter their lesson plans to fit an online format which could be really difficult when leading labs and other hands-on classes. With the online method being equally new to instructors and students, instructors have had a hard time helping students who struggle with being completely online because they too were struggling. This resulted in many students falling behind. Some students also couldn’t afford decent computers to pair with the new online learning format which also played a large part in the decrease in grades. Not only are students not doing well in these classes, but they also can not afford them. Online classes cost much more than in person and with the campuses being closed, students have no choice but to pay for them. On top of having to pay for these classes, many of them only offer the materials needed for the class online. Now rather than paying twenty dollars for a used textbook, students are having to come up with two hundred dollars out of pocket for an index card size piece of paper with an access code that will give them the same information.
The combination of food insecurity and financial stress can lead to emotional and physical burnout. Students are facing unprecedented amounts of stress and have not had the opportunity to deal with the effects of the pandemic in general. On top of the regular anxieties of school, students are struggling with instructors not being able to properly adjust to being online or offering inappropriate hybrid solutions that do not take into account their students well being. Anxiety diagnoses are at an all-time high among college-aged adults. On top of that, college kids are facing new waves of food insecurity and financial stress, creating an unparalleled amount of anxious adults. The pandemic has essentially become the pandora’s box of mental health issues in our country. It has shown how ill-equipped higher education is when it comes to mental health and providing resources in order to ensure the success and well-being of all its students.
Essentially, college sucks right now. Schools are trying their best to accommodate the large influx of mental health accommodations, however, they are simply not able to handle the workload. Financial Aid officers are overloaded with past due processes and on-campus counselors simply do not have enough time in the day to meet with their patients. The issues cannot simply be solved with more counselors or more money. This is a systemic issue and highlights the fact that higher education is essentially a business fronting as a place of learning rather than a place that actually prioritizes learning and personal development. It’s time for colleges and universities to listen to the cries of their students and actually implement programs that help students adjust to pandemic learning, or, acknowledging that some students are unable to learn during a pandemic as a whole and honoring their credits until they can return. Online learning should not be more expensive than in-person learning especially when the Center for Disease Control recommends all in-person activities are suspended until this deadly virus subsides. Universities cannot willfully wish this pandemic away or pretend that things are back to normal when they are clearly not. Moving forward high education institutions need to acknowledge the faults of this system and make the active choice to listen to the people they serve, the students, and do what’s best to serve their best interest.