This has been a nerve-racking time for Chelsea Callender.
The 22-year-old junior at Bowie State University in Maryland had to switch her 3-year-old daughter from a childcare center to an in-home daycare last week, after the childcare center closed down due to concerns around the coronavirus. She was in the process of moving from one job to another when her old job shut down and left her without her last week of pay. The job she was planning to move to — teaching children how to swim — is also now shut down due to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Callender had been planning to take classes in the summer after taking this semester off to work through financial aid issues and work extra hours. She ne to turn in a financial aid appeal in May and doesn’t know whether someone will be there to approve it.
About nine in 10 single mothers live in poverty or with low incomes, according to Reichlin Cruse. Not only are they possibly losing their jobs in the economic crisis, they’re also losing their childcare and community or college resources. And they’re being asked to suddenly take courses online while also helping their children learn online.
The uncertainty of what will happen in the long term is one of the scariest things for student parents, said Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder and CEO of Generation Hope, a nonprofit organization in the D.C. metro area that focuses on college completion and success for student parents and their children.
“When campuses open back up, what will that look like? Will things return to normal?” she said. “Are we going to lose some students in the course of transition to online learning because of the lack of technology and childcare?”
At Montgomery College, in Maryland, faculty and staff members are taking several steps to support vulnerable students, including those who are parents, said DeRionne Pollard, president of the college.
The college has dedicated $550,000 from its operating funds and philanthropy to provide emergency support to students, as the requests for aid increase, Pollard said. Students who need it are also getting stipends to secure access to technology — whether that’s buying a laptop or getting Wi-Fi — so they can continue taking classes online.
Another priority is information, Pollard said.
“In a crisis, many people don’t know how to get access to the things that they need,” she said. “They simply are trying to get through the day to day.”
So Montgomery is taking on the role of information provider by compiling materials on its website, including a special section for student parents about how to take care of their children during this time.
The college is also planning for the future. Every day, there’s a task-force meeting, Pollard said. Currently, they’re looking at what to do for the summer and fall sessions. The first of the college‘s two summer sessions will just be online.
“It would be really foolhardy for us to say, ‘Oh, we’re going to be done with this in May,'” she said.
The main goal right now is to try to keep stress levels low, she said. To help students succeed, Trinity might need to elongate the semester, use pass/fail options or let student take incompletes with no penalty.
“Academically, while we want to focus on still having quality and rigor, we want to be as flexible as possible so that no one is penalized because of this extremely bizarre situation,” McGuire said.
Cuyamaca College, a two-year college in the San Diego area, is just returning from spring break and trying to assess what students need, according to Sheryl Ashley, the CalWORKS program coordinator for the college.
College staff know these students will likely need help getting computers and internet access to continue their courses online, and Ashley hopes the county will provide that. Her staff of six counselors is surveying and calling the 400 or so students in the program to determine their other ne.
While the college is loosening some requirements and penalties, students still have to comply with financial aid requirements. They also have to turn in their required participation hours to the county, which they used to submit to Ashley’s office and now have to do at home while also taking care of their children and dealing with financial losses.