Poor, Studying, and Avoiding COVID-19
Article Written By Karah Lindsey
The coronavirus pandemic broke the US economy back in March, and it has not made a full recovery. Currently, about 11 percent of Americans are unemployed. With jobs of all types harder and harder to come by, people with a longer employment history are squeezing young people with less experience out of the market. The current employment rate of people 16-19 years of age was 16.1%, and the unemployment rate of people 20-24 years of age was 14.1%. Both totals are well above the national unemployment rate of 8.4%. Many of these people are students, trying hard to balance school and work. Without work or some sort of outside assistance, they will be unable to further their education until the economy gets back on track, unable to afford basic necessities for the near future, and could even get caught in a cycle of poverty that would be very difficult to break.
Alexis, a 24-year-old who prefers to go by her first name only, said that her family went from three incomes to zero because of coronavirus while she was studying to become a child life specialist. They now only have Alexis’ unemployment checks to live off. To make extra money, she wakes up early to complete her schoolwork, then joins her mother on the blue moon that they can find housekeeping work. Looking towards the fall, Alexis is not sure if her best option is to try and find a full-time-job to help her family or continue her education.
Deciding whether to continue school or take a break is a challenging decision for someone who is barely an adult to make. Two out of three students who take a break from college never graduate. However, online learning is not good for everyone. Students who are more tactile learners or who benefit from one-on-one time with the professor may find it difficult to keep up. If this happens to someone during their first year of college, they may think that college is not a good fit for them and never return. Some students, such as Alexis, also have family concerns to think about.
Luckily, for those who decide to continue their education this semester, there are options to help keep them afloat. Many colleges have provided need-based stipends, free laptops, and Wi-Fi hotspots to students who would not be able to afford them on their own. Cal-State purchased over $4 million in laptops and tablets to distribute to students in need. Also, colleges who are hosting all virtual classes this semester offered dorm spaces to students, which are helpful because the students no longer have to worry about finding reliable Wi-Fi and computers. Colleges have also developed emergency funds for students in poverty in compliance with the CARES Act. However, the payment, no matter what college distributed them, were rarely above $1,500 and never above $2,000. Many students could use this to cover bills for a couple of months, but since there have not been any concrete plans to give students additional funds, students are now back to where they were in March, trying to pay the bills in any way they can. While distributing payments was a good first step, students need additional support in order to help their families and continue learning.
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