The beginning of the fall semester during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been fraught with problems for many colleges and universities, but Scholarship Foundation students go into it armed with the tools and plans they’ll need to meet the challenges they’ll face. Multiple news outlets are reporting stories of students moving to campus, returning to in-person classes, and finding that the assurances of safety and the invitation to return were premature. The challenges include inadequate testing, significant case counts, poorly supported and understocked quarantine conditions, and poor compliance with masking and distancing requirements.
Earlier this summer, as many schools announced plans to return to campus for the fall semester, the Foundation assessed the situation and became concerned about the effect that the inadequate COVID-19 precautions and resulting campus closures would have on students. All students will experience stress and hardship, but the burden falls heaviest on those without the financial resources to cushion the ill effects. To help mitigate these effects, the Foundation assembled resources and information for staff and students and put in place an urgent process to help students prepare for the semester and beyond.
Prior to disbursing funds for fall, the Foundation sent an assessment to all 456 students awarded interest-free loans or grants. The assessment covered academics, finances, health and safety, and other basic needs. Within each topic area, students were asked to think about their plans for addressing situations they might encounter, such as changes to their on- or off-campus housing, changes in educational delivery method, and the illness of themselves or their family members.
While not pleasant topics to consider, the Foundation recognized that students would be better served by identifying their back-up plans now. One student expressed agreement by saying, “I feel this is a great idea when it comes to planning college. It really is a good exercise to make students think about how they would react rather than having them react spontaneously when the situation presents itself. Whoever thought of this deserves a promotion!”
During follow-up phone conversations averaging 30-45 minutes each, Foundation student advisors guided students through the process of making a plan. As of Monday, August 24th, 422 students had successfully completed the assessment and follow-up. The process is an example of the Foundation’s commitment to doing the hard work that truly makes a difference, for 100 years and counting. At the beginning of the conversations, many students stated that they were trying not to think about negative possibilities. After the discussions, students reported that they felt less stressed and much better prepared for the fall semester. The student advisors could not have asked for a better reward than that.