By Haley Hersey, Staff Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has unprecedented mental, emotional, and financial adverse effects on lives. The implications of the effects of the pandemic are being talked about more frequently, but often college students are being left out of the discussion.
With stimulus packages being presented to Congress that support families and dependents, college-aged kids are regularly being forgotten. What is the University of Southern Maine doing to support its students?
USM President, Glenn Cummings, stated, “The University has taken a number of steps to increase resources for students. We created and awarded the First Responder and Essential Worker Scholarship to 50 students, USM reduced online course and transportation fees, and the entire Maine System has made Wi-Fi available on all campuses for easier access. USM also distributed close to $2.3M of federal funds (CARES Act) directly to students and we are hopeful to receive the new federal relief package in the coming months.”
President Cummings also shared that there has been a struggle with the switch to remote learning, especially for students in more rural areas. Having to support various technology, computers, and wifi expenses in order to be successful in an online learning environment has proven to be a difficulty for many students.
Students at USM have their own experiences with the financial burdens COVID-19 has added to their lives.
Sophomore media studies major, Josh Sawyer, said, “I know things became very difficult for me at the beginning of the summer when I realized I would be losing my summer job because the people I worked for wouldn’t be coming to Maine. This made things very hard for me being able to afford school or to get away to fund my education because my mother was so worried about the virus.”
Sawyer was also hopeful that “my university and the people who work in it are aware that some kids are missing out on learning because of the specific circumstances we are in and should be more accommodating to the climate we are living in.”
Will Vachon, a first-year health science major, said the pandemic “has taken a toll on my friends and me by making it harder to find jobs. One of my close friends was working a job at a movie theatre that once the pandemic happened they shut down. He was out of work and couldn’t make any money to support himself.”
Phoebe Elliot, a first-year health science major in the accelerated program to athletic training student shared valuable insight: “If I got my schedule, and my classes were online, the cost it would be for me to go here would be too much; and like a lot of my friends, I would have taken a gap year or stayed home and taken classes at a local college. Even today, as I’m sitting in my dorm room, I wonder how much money I could be saving if I just stayed home. Even though I love being on campus, I can see the financial strain it is putting on my family.”
Elliot’s point about the decision to live on campus, be remote, or commute is one that is impacting many students due to COVID-19.
Regularly, students would choose the format, or modality, of their classes based on what type of learning is best for their needs. Living on campus and having in-person classes, commuting for a few in-person classes if they lived close, and being fully online with classes they could do when it was convenient for them were very common pre-Covid.
Now, in a world where masks are used to protect ourselves and others, and social distancing is a key way to stop the spread of the virus, students are being pushed into a remote learning environment or very small, limited in-person classrooms.
The USM Dean of Students, Rodney Mondor, informed that “It has been very difficult for our students to navigate the challenges of COVID while being a student.”
Dean Mondor also shared that the University’s Campus Food Pantry is another resource available to students. For more information regarding the food pantry, click here.
Students may also appeal their financial aid package if the tax information on their FAFSA does not accurately reflect their current situation due to unemployment or a reduction in family income. If this applies to you, please contact your financial aid counselor to discuss your eligibility.