Many low-income students drop out of college due to COVID-19
Desteny Lara is 18 and she is going to California State University, East Bay. Like many college students in America, she recently had to leave campus and move home – she is from South Central Los Angeles. For her, withdrawing means living with 10 family members in a two-room apartment and grappling with how to concentrate.
“When it comes to concentration and work, I usually do it at night because everyone is asleep. Everyone is quiet and I can concentrate more, ”says Lara.
Nevertheless, it will be demanding. And she wonders how much longer she can do that: “Sometimes I think to myself, is school really worth it?”
This is exactly what educators and experts fear. COVID-19 and the resulting economic crisis are putting even more pressure on low-income and first-generation students. It is beginning to show: so far there has been a decrease in student grant applications – especially by low-income students. Around 100,000 fewer high school graduates completed the Free Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Application this year to enter college.
Michele Siqueiros, president of the California-based advocacy group Campaign for higher education opportunitiesIronically, higher education is “the absolutely only way out of poverty, which is often the only way out of poverty for low-income students.”
With an average student loan debt of around $ 30,000, the inaccessibility of higher education was a problem long before COVID-19. Black and Latino The level of higher education lags far behind whites, and many fear the pandemic will make it worse.
Brian Troyer, Dean of Studies of Marquette University in Wisconsin, says he has heard many student concerns about financial instability since the spring. This includes questions like “What happens when our family situation changes? Could I be entitled to financial support? “
In August it is US Census Bureau found that students from families with incomes below $ 75,000 were almost twice as likely to say they were canceling their plans for college than students from more affluent families. “This is worrying,” says Siqueiros. “Because we know that the likelihood of return is very unlikely when students, especially low-income students, are very unlikely.”
Back in South Central LA, Desteny Lara just got a new job at a fast food restaurant to make ends meet. She’s worried about balancing school and work. But then she remembers being the first to make it to college. And that’s a really big thing in her family. “My whole family basically looks up to me. Like my siblings, my cousins. To like [they say] “If she can go to college, you can go to college,” she says.