Temple’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, a research center focused on higher education, released a series of recommendations for colleges to address students’ basic needs this week as universities vacate their campuses amid the spread of COVID-19.
A report authored by Sara Goldrick-Rab, the founding director of the center, advises colleges to center students and their needs for food, healthcare, housing, emergency aid and instruction during the pandemic, communicate what steps they are taking and explain what resources are available.
“Students are humans first,” Goldrick-Rab wrote. “The more a student feels connected to and understood by their college or university, the more likely they are to stay enrolled and engaged.”
Among the Hope Center’s recommendations are informing students if they are eligible for Medicaid, following CDC guidelines for distribution of food from food pantries, deploying an emergency aid fund for students in need, providing counseling to help students find alternative housing and loaning laptops to students who may not have them.
Christine Baker-Smith, the managing director and director of research of the Hope Center, said students right now are expressing concern about “what’s coming next” — paying rent in a few months, being able to go to work or accessing the internet for their classes.
“Everybody right now is not just trying to figure how to be educated or to educate, but also how to care for themselves and their family in a time of uncertainty,” Baker-Smith said.
The Hope Center also released enrollment management and financial aid best practices during the pandemic and guidelines for how universities can take care of students who have experienced homelessness or foster care.
Since Temple announced classes would move online on March 11, the university has done the following to support students, wrote Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, in an email to The Temple News:
- Provided laptops to every student who requested one to work from home.
- Moved the Cherry Pantry to the Temple Police substation near Morgan Hall South. The pantry will be open twice a week and provide a “grab-and-go” bag of groceries to students, The Temple News reported.
- Committed to refunding the costs of housing, meal plans, and parking.
- Surveyed all students in Temple housing and made arrangements to house those who have no place to go.
- Asked alumni and friends of the university to help support the Student Emergency Aid Fund. Temple’s FAST Fund, another emergency aid fund administered by Temple Association of University Professionals, has been strapped for cash helping students during the pandemic but is expecting more money to be added soon, wrote Steve Newman, the president of the union, in an email to The Temple News.
- Set up ways to continue counseling.
“I would say these examples show how Temple has shown its compassion in ensuring the ongoing needs of our students, whether they’re here in Philly or at home,” Betzner wrote.