Minnesota State system officials heard from students Wednesday about concerns over online instruction and the hardships of going to college during the coronavirus pandemic.
During a video panel discussion, students from various Minnesota State institutions said they needed support from faculty members and administrators during and after the move next week to online learning. Suggestions included not penalizing students for late tuition payments, and providing clear information about available financial resources.
Minnesota State schools are scheduled to resume instruction as early as Monday using alternative methods, mostly online learning.
One concern echoed among the students was the economic effect of closures related to the virus. Some said that they may need to drop out of school if they lose their jobs. Alejandro Sanchez-Lopez, a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC), was laid off from his job as a restaurant server.
“We can’t just quarantine ourselves and not do anything for a week or two weeks, because we still have bills coming in, and we don’t have that luxury of just not doing anything at all,” he said.
Another concern brought forward was about the internet access required to take classes online. Alicia Bowstring, a communications officer for the Leech Lake Tribal police who attends Bemidji State University, said she only has one computer at home that she shares with her husband and child.
“It’s upsetting and scary. If I wouldn’t work, my family wouldn’t survive,” Bowstring said. “At my house we only have one computer … How are we going to manage working and being able to be online and productive?”
Students emphasized that not all have access to the internet or a computer.
“We cannot tell every student to have an internet connection … there is a reason why campus [computer] labs exist,” said Kridish Uprety, a student at St. Cloud State University.
Lauren Feiersinger, an international student who attends MCTC, joined the video conference from campus since she didn’t have internet access from home.
“The amount of anxiety that I’ve been feeling throughout this time has just been through the roof,” she said. “One of the painful things is hearing or reading about how help is on the way, but this is help that I can’t access as an international student, and also just feeling like we’re often forgotten.”
Feiersinger said she thinks the pandemic is creating racial tensions, which she said contributed to her feelings of fear.
“This is a painful reminder that as an international student, there’s always some expectation that we should be able to fend for ourselves,” she said.
Katrina Pross (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.