A student picks up a loaner laptop during a recent distribution

A student picks up a loaner laptop during a recent distribution.

Surveys reveal struggles students facing during pandemic

June 22, 2020 | San Diego Community College District

San Diego Community College District students are facing overwhelming needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including job losses that are making it more difficult to afford rent and a lack of computer and internet access for classes that transitioned online, according to SDCCD surveys.

“I have no income right now and I have to move out of my current place because my other roommates are leaving and I can't afford their portion of rent,” wrote one Miramar College student.

“I am in need of a laptop but the problem is I don’t even have WiFi at home, that is how much my family and I are broke,” wrote a San Diego Mesa College student. “My only resource was public/school library, but they are all closed during this pandemic.”

The hardships have prompted a sharp increase in students dropping their classes. A total of 18,577 withdrawals were recorded between the spring semester’s sixth and 15th weeks, which came during the heart of the pandemic, and they accounted for 17% of all enrollments. That compares the 10,834 withdrawals accounting for 9% of all enrollments recorded last year.

The primary challenge students at City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges face are financial, with 29% of students at City, 24% of students at Mesa, and 18% percent of students at Miramar saying they can’t afford the rent, mortgage, or utility bills. Eighteen percent of students at City College, 16% of students at Mesa College, and 13% of students at Miramar College said there isn’t enough food at home. Many students are asking for mental and emotional support; many expressed concerns about exacerbating mental distress post COVID-19.

There also was ample gratitude for the services the SDCCD has extended during the crisis. Staff at City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges, and San Diego Continuing Education, for example, have distributed hundreds of laptops to students shortly after classes moved online; WiFi hotspots are being offered at college parking lots; scholarships and emergency funding is being provided with the support of donors; a variety of counseling and student services are now available online; and deadlines for withdrawals were extended. In addition, all the institutions have ramped up communications to ensure students are aware of available resources.

“Everything you are doing is more than enough,” wrote a Mesa College student. “Thank you for all your efforts, you are doing such a great job. These are difficult times and we need all the support. God bless you all!”

Data was collected via surveys at individual colleges and San Diego Continuing Education in the weeks following campus closures. Response rates ranged from 20% at City College to 49% at Mesa College. Students took part in the study via Survey Monkey. A total of 17,715 students took part overall.

Among the findings:

- Nearly 6 in 10 Mesa College students said they are suffering through a loss of income because of the pandemic. Those numbers were 54% at Miramar College and 48% at City College.

- Homeschooling children was cited as a challenge by 18% of students at City College, 15% of students at Miramar College, and 13% of students at Mesa College.
Some 23% of City College students, 20% of Mesa College students, and 15% of Miramar College students reported either having unreliable or no internet access at home.

- Some 33% of City College students were using the campus WiFi to access the internet on their computer or cell phone before the stay-at-home order was issued, 16% accessed the internet at a public library, and 11% accessed the internet at the home of a family member or friend.

- Some 23% of San Diego Continuing Education students either do not have or only sometimes have access to a working computer or mobile device. Those numbers are 15% at Miramar College and 14% at Mesa College.

- Thirty percent of students at Mesa and Miramar colleges share their computer or mobile device with others in their household; 40% of San Diego Continuing Education students said they share these devices.

“The district also recently participated in statewide survey of community college students and employees. The results of that survey, are expected to be available later this summer.”

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