Universities and students across the world have scrambled to adjust to the complex circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. During this stressful and unprecedented time, MPOWER wanted to highlight a few universities who have gone the extra mile for their students, lead the charge against the spread, or shared extra resources.
The University of Washington was the first major university in the U.S. to cancel in-person classes on March 6th due to COVID-19 for the safety of their students. Washington state was one of the first U.S. states to be majorly hit by COVID-19, and many workplaces and schools in the state decided it was in their best interest to shut down for the wellbeing of their students and employees.
The entire California State University system has announced they will continue online-only courses in fall 2020. They are one of the first universities to do so for the upcoming semester, but it is likely that many more schools will follow.
As many students are suffering financially during this global pandemic, a few schools have stepped up and offered emergency aid to those in need. One example is the University of California and California State University systems, both of which will provide DACA students with emergency financial aid using institutional money, as DACA students cannot qualify for federal aid.
The University of Texas has also instituted an Emergency Relief Fund for student support. The funds can help students with a variety of financial needs, including: students who have lost their jobs, emergency healthcare needs, moving and transportation, and housing and food. Additionally, all gifts to the Student Emergency Fund will be matched up to $2 million by the university.
After most study abroad programs were forced to shut down as the virus spread, universities were also closing their campuses back in the U.S. The University of Connecticut decided that this unfairly spent semester required a change in pricing. They were one of the first U.S. schools to provide room and board refunds. This includes prorated refunds for housing, dining plans, and study abroad programs that were discontinued due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan State University is thinking ahead to the travel complications facing their fall international students, as the university serves over 6,000. The international admissions office is offering students the option to defer to January 2021 if they are unable to arrive in the fall or feel unsafe to travel internationally at that time. In the meantime, Michigan State is issuing I-20s to their international students so that they may get their visas as soon as appointments are available. They are also encouraging students to take online classes in the fall if they defer their U.S. arrival for a semester.
When universities shut down and a ‘new normal’ took over, many students may have found themselves dealing with more stress and anxiety than usual. Thankfully, many universities recognized this need and have offered their typical university counseling resources through telehealth practices online.
In one instance, the University of California—Berkeley, decided to move to a pass-fail system for their undergraduate students this term to prioritize mental and physical health over academic achievement. A few other schools have offered students the option to switch to pass-fail this semester, including Duke, MIT, and Georgetown.
William & Mary has seen a greater interest in their resilience-focused programs during the pandemic since students have been sent home. The need for these telehealth style resources is higher than ever, and the students have more free time at home to take advantage of the offerings. These programs include virtual videos such as guided meditation and art-therapy, and more than 13,000 people have participated.
Two other U.S. universities, the University of Florida and Temple University, are providing additional mental health resources for their students online. The University of Florida is hosting online wellness webinars to provide mental health information to students. These are hosted weekly and will continue into the summer months. Temple University is offering daily open group therapy sessions on Zoom for students to drop in and discuss any academic and emotional struggles with their peers.
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