Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Courtney Miller balances teaching herself French and completing readings for her Library Sciences class. Photo by Isabel Beer

Zoom classes, blended learning, mask wearing, no gatherings, is causing some college students to wonder if  the tuition dollars are worth paying during a pandemic.

“If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard ‘these are strange and unprecedented times’ during a zoom lecture, I’d be able to pay off my student loans,” said Courtney Miller, 22, a Pratt library science graduate student. “It is really difficult for me to learn at home and not in the classroom, and so I’m a little frustrated that not only do I have to do that, but like, I have to also pay full tuition. Make it make sense.” 

With many institutions resuming instruction digitally or with blended learning – both face-to-face and online – many students are questioning whether or not it is worth it to return and pay full tuition prices. 

“It seems kinda silly that I’m basically at ‘Zoom University’, learning online, but still have to pay like I was in-person,” said Miller. “I don’t even have access to the resources I would on-campus, like the library. I know I technically have the databases and whatever, but it just doesn’t feel the same.”

Anthony Tucci speaks with his ACT tutoring class via Zoom from the sunroom in his Brooklyn apartment. Photo by Isabel Beer

The global pandemic has also forced many schools to completely change their testing requirements – many colleges and universities made the news when they determined this year they would not be requiring standardized testing for admission. 

“I work as an SAT, GRE, ACT tutor so a lot has changed for me because of the pandemic,” Anthony Tucci, 24, from Washington DC said. “When some institutions announced they weren’t going to require some of these tests, I kind of panicked a little bit because I was scared my job would be obsolete. Not only do I have to adjust for online instruction, but the shift in job security as well.” 

This dramatic change in classroom setting has been difficult for instructors as well as for students – as the majority of teachers and professors now have to account for learning and working in conjunction with new technology as well as having to adjust curriculum. 

According to a recent study done by the US Department of Education, approximately 14% – or about 9.4 million students – don’t have regular access to at home internet. Accessibility to learning is a dialogue that is just now beginning to happen in earnest in many institutions. When instruction was still in-person, many students relied on the technology available at their schools to be able to print, look online for research, or to complete extracurricular activities like apply for schools or jobs. 

“It is really strange, I feel like I’m the student half the time, when I’m supposed to be the teacher,” said Oakland Technical High School teacher’s assistant, Taeja Kim. “There’s not a lot of technological literacy among teachers, a lot of us are older. We all took summer training courses to prepare, of course, but it is still tricky sometimes when I have to share screens or when a student can’t see or hear me properly. And then I’m really stuck.”

 


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