How Covid-19 has Affected Universities and College Students

By: Lauren Cunningham

Photos: Eneas Creative Commons, Lauren Cunningham, Ashlee Rogers Marymount University

“In the past several months, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions of people and changed individual’s lives completely.”

In the past several months, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected millions of people and changed individual’s lives completely. In March of 2020, schools, businesses, and so much more were completely shut down for weeks due to the fast spread of Covid-19 throughout the United States. In response to the shutdown, universities across the country transitioned classes to online, allowing students to finish their academics for the rest of the semester virtually. Universities sent all their students home, including athletes, whose sports were completely stopped for safety reasons. Due to the overall shutdown, drastic changes throughout college students lives were greatly impacted, affecting individuals overall college experience. Universities closing caused thousands of college students to switch to online classes via zoom, endure financial challenges, athletes’ seasons were cancelled, and their mental health was heavily affected

Universities had to adjust to the current times and as the pandemic continued they had to decide whether they were going to open back up in the fall of 2020 or continue online. Many universities decided to bring their students back to campus even if they did not have in person classes. While other universities choose to keep their students completely online and reevaluate for the spring of 2021 semester. With the decision to return to campus, many risks were present causing countless meetings and conversations that universities discussed. Universities struggled financially due to schools being shut down in March, meaning no one was on campus. In addition, athletics was completely shut down, causing athletes across the United States to stop playing their sport for a while. Most importantly, universities had to take into consideration their students’ mental health throughout this difficult time. The priority was keeping students safe while also allowing students to experience a somewhat normal life again. Many campuses have taken the necessary steps and protocols in order to keep their students safe.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, college students began taking classes online in March of 2020 and continue to currently. However, some colleges have offered on campus classes, but most of them are hybrid, meaning students are half online and in person. Many professors have chosen to split between zoom and in person classes in order to be safe. If they are in person, students have to social distance and wear masks the entire time. With online classes, many students find themselves becoming distracted and choosing to turn their camera off, causing them to not pay attention in class.

Claire Smith, a sophomore at Marymount University, describes her experience this past semester with online classes while living on campus. Specifically, she states, “I feel I am not learning as much over zoom classes than I would be in the real classroom, being in class is more effective for retaining the information than learning through a screen.” Smith details how not only does she feel like she is not learning as much, but she also is missing out on getting to know her professors and classmates better. She feels like there’s a disconnect between her and the other people in her class because her classes are virtual. Moreover, she compares her experience as a freshman, saying that she had discipline through in person classes. Particularly, she was in front of her professor and was taking notes, allowing her to be more engaged in the class. In addition, Smith emphasizes that she feels like she is not having the full college experience that she once had her freshman year.

Like Smith, there are many college students out there who are experiencing similar thoughts during their time at college with Covid-19. Specifically those who are completely online and are still continuing to do their classes at home. Many students have continued to struggle with virtual classes and are hoping that soon enough classes will go back to normal and be completely in person.

Covid-19 had also put a strain on universities financially, specifically the lack of students on campus has caused them to lose money. In March, universities had to give many students their room and board money back since students were required to move back home. Some students have also been heavily affected by not being able to afford college tuition due to job layoffs and other challenges caused by Covid-19. Many students still are not on campus and those who are living on campus are not spending nearly as much. In fact, many students have explained how they have decided to not have a meal plan this year. Dining halls are only allowing dine and go rather than sitting down and enjoying meals with friends. The lack of students on campus and preventions due to Covid-19 have heavily impacted universities financially.

Taylor Love, a senior at Marymount University, explains how she does not have a full meal plan this year due to the restrictions at the dining hall and not being on the main campus as much since she does not have basketball or in person classes. Love says, “I now spend more money on getting groceries than last year because I do not have a full meal plan and I just cook in my apartment.” She emphasizes how she is saving money by buying groceries and cooking in her own apartment rather than getting an expensive full meal plan through Marymount. Like Love, students are deciding to limit their meal plans because they are not on campus as much and to limit their exposure.

The pandemic and effects of Covid-19 on the economy has also had a large impact on students who are looking for internships or graduating in the spring of 2021. Layoffs and decreases in salaries within businesses have affected millions of people throughout the past few months. Many internships were cancelled this past summer due to Covid-19, affecting student’s income and future. With the job market struggling these past months, college students who are graduating soon are missing out on opportunities that they once had prior to Covid-19.

Caitlyn Kunz, a graduate student at Jefferson University explains how her paying internship this past summer was cancelled due to Covid-19. In response, Kunz had to find another way to make money in order to provide for herself during the school year while also trying to gain experience for her future career. Not only was she not making an income but she also explains how she missed out on the opportunity to build connections which could have led to a potential job. She says, “… it’s frustrating because it affected the opportunity for me to potentially get into the Comcast program after I graduated because I wasn’t able to meet people personally and build those connections. I was still an outsider applying for the job, instead of having an inside connection which I would have had if the Comcast internship this past summer was not cancelled due to the pandemic.” As she looks for a job after graduating college, Kunz explains how Covid-19 is currently affecting companies which affects whether she gets hired. Kunz states, “…one job that I am looking at, the company said they had to put people on furlough or lay them off because they could not afford to keep them and that affects whether or not they hire me.” The pandemic has affected many college students who had jobs or internships lined up that were cancelled or students looking for them currently. Many students rely on paying internships or having a job right out of college to have a steady income but Covid-19 has changed everything.

College students’ internships allow them to potentially get hired by the company they have interned for. Like Kunz, many students’ opportunities to get a job were taken away as a result of the pandemic.

College athletics have been greatly impacted by the pandemic since March of 2020. After athletics was shut down at universities across the country, student athletes were sent home and did not know when they would be able to return. As the pandemic continued and colleges reopened, the NCAA worked tirelessly to set protocols and regulations for each division in order for all college athletics to play safely. The NCAA decided to postpone college athletics’ seasons for Division II and III until the spring semester of 2021. The NCAA continues to release updated decisions and guidelines that must be followed by college athletics. Each university’s athletics have approached the situation differently, deciding whether masks and contact sports were allowed. Also, the NCAA has decided to allow athletes to have another year of eligibility. This gives current students the ability to stay an extra year where they can play and further their education.

Ashlee Rogers, the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at Marymount University, explains how Marymount athletics decided on a phase approach for the incoming fall semester. She also emphasizes how this is an opportunity for her team to get on the court and be together. Marymount athletics has set many protocols in place for athletes for this upcoming semester to make sure everyone is safe. Rogers details how Marymount has required temperature checks, masks, deep cleaning after equipment use, and so much more. Rogers says, “the importance of the constant reminders of the social distancing protocols and masking up, being responsible within our bubble and Marymount community to give us the opportunity to be able to have a season.” As the fall semester has continued, colleges are continuing to learn and make changes that will allow for a spring season. Rogers touches on the recruiting process having to change in order to follow the protocol set in place. Recruits are no longer able to do overnight visits, eat in the dining hall, and can only meet with one student athlete rather than as many as possible. College athletics across the United States in every division have been greatly affected and still continue to be as a result of Covid-19.

Student athletes have had a drastic change in their everyday college lives. In particular, many athletes are no longer practicing everyday and will not be playing games until next year. Student athletes are facing many challenges through the limitations being set by athletic administrators and the NCAA. Caitlyn Kunz describes how this could potentially be her last season to play and knowing that the last time she was on the court could have been the end of her basketball career is frustrating. Additionally, Kunz details the strain that Covid-19 has had on her relationships with her teammates. As a captain and teammate, she has to hold her teammates accountable and trust that they are doing their part and when they’re not it can be a difficult conversation. Most importantly, Kunz talks about how she is not being regularly tested at Jefferson University and hopes that when she begins playing other schools testing will be a part of the protocol. Kunz says, “…all it takes is one person and especially once we start playing these other teams where you don’t know where these players have been is a huge risk.” Not only will individual teammates have to hold each other accountable but with the upcoming spring season all conferences will have to.

As students endure this difficult time that they have never once experienced before, mental health has been a prominent topic that is being discussed at many universities. Specifically, students who have gone through isolation or quarantine may have needed support in order to get through the tough times. Also, students in general who are away from home and are coming back to college, but experiencing a whole new way of college life than they have before is very difficult. Counseling centers and virtual discussions throughout universities have been available for students to attend and are encouraged to participate. Universities like Marymount, specifically athletics, have incorporated discussions on mental health within the individual sports teams. Coach Rogers has organized team meetings on zoom and with the counseling center to talk about stress management. Moreover, Marymount University has scheduled ‘Saints Strong’ meetings which are held every Wednesday for athletes to attend and talk about different topics regarding mental and physical health.

As the pandemic began the world drastically changed for universities and students across the world. College students’ lives were switched to completely online and now slowly progressing towards more in person. Universities and their students have experienced changes in online rather than in person classes, financial challenges, different approaches to college athletics and the importance of mental health. With the spread of Covid-19, universities and their students have had to adapt during these unpredictable times.

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