Our Work During COVID-19, Part 1
March 27, 2020
By Carrie Fethe
As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts higher education and the lives of students nationwide, uAspire’s work carries on—optimistically and with a single-minded purpose of supporting students through this critical time of great uncertainty and financial challenges.
uAspire advisors continue to support students safely from their homes with our virtual advising model. Since the beginning of March, they’ve advised 12,304 students primarily over text in Massachusetts, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area—geographies hit especially hard by the virus. With their schools and colleges closed, our students are struggling with financial insecurity and adapting to online learning.
Over the last week, the daily student-advisor conversations shifted to refunds for housing or meal plans, work-study wages, and access to reliable Wi-Fi and computers. Advisors have been helping students and their families apply for unemployment benefits or emergency funds and offering tips and support on participating in online classes. See actual text messages below with identifying information removed to protect students’ privacy.
Even during these ever-evolving times, the themes remain the same—navigating complex higher ed and financial aid systems together, with compassion and appreciation for one another. As Mya, an advisor, shared, “Even though students are facing struggles, they are so resilient!” On March 20, one of her students texted her:
In response to the new needs of our school partners, we launched a Financial Aid Help Desk for counselors to get timely answers to questions about the financial aid process and we’re holding a free webinar on the summer transition from high school to college. We’re also sharing resources like student-facing how-to videos and our best practices for virtual programming with peer organizations so they can also continue to serve their students.
uAspire’s policy team is advocating on behalf of students from low-income families at the state and federal levels, working to ensure that they can access resources and aid in the short and long-term. Alongside 50 organizations, uAspire sent a letter urging Congress to address the needs of students during and after the COVID-19 emergency. In these difficult days, we find hope and inspiration in the collected efforts of school districts, organizations, and policymakers to meet the pressing needs of our nation’s students.