Resources for Students Impacted by Coronavirus Online Classes

This week, colleges and universities across the country began closing their classrooms due to COVID-19. At first, the closures were mostly in areas with high numbers of coronavirus outbreaks, like California and Seattle. But over the past few days schools like Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton have followed suit.

While some have simply closed their doors until we understand the impact of coronavirus, others have started transitioning their students to online classes. Online classes seem like a legitimate option for many students, especially when you think about the makeup of the student demographic at the above-mentioned schools, but for some students, it could severely impact their ability to take part in their education. 

Access to digital devices and internet connectivity among low-income and minority students is incredibly low. Only half of families below the poverty level have access to reliable internet access and 33% of them only have mobile devices to work with.

As schools take precautions against COVID-19 and transition students to an online learning environment, it can be a disaster for disadvantaged students already struggling to keep up with their classes.

Resources that grant students access to the internet and other technology to keep up with their classes aren’t always widely available. It can be difficult to know where to turn or even how to get to a place with access. 

We put together some resources for low-income students to help them navigate the world of online classes during the coronovirus pandemic. 

Take Advantage of Spectrum Free WiFi

On March 13th, Spectrum announced they would be offering free WiFi to families with K-12 and/or college students in their home for 60 days. 

If you do not already have broadband internet connection and are in a Spectrum access area, call them at 1-855-488-8395 to discuss setting up your free connection. They are also waiving set-up fees at this time to allow students access to this program. 

Charter will be opening up WiFi hotspots across their footprint for public use, making it possible for students to take their online classes. At this time, there will be no additional fees or data caps for those using the hot spots. 

Comcast and T-Mobile have also suspended data caps for the next 60 days. If you have questions about what this means for your service, get in touch with them directly. 

Rely on Friends or Family Members

Social distancing is of utmost important at this time. Unless you can find a way to safely access WiFi from a friend or family member, it’s best to reach out to an internet carrier first and see what they can do for you.

If your home is not equipped with the technology and internet access you need, ask your fellow students and teachers for help finding a place to get your work done.

If your friends can’t help, turn to your family members. If you know of someone that can loan you a laptop or a place to study, don’t hesitate to reach out and explain the situation.

People are often willing to help, especially when they see that someone is working hard to be successful. Pride can keep us from many things. Don’t let it keep you from your education.

Free or low priced laptops for low-income families

Depending on your income level, PCs for People offers free or low-cost laptops for individuals that can prove their income through specific documentation. 

The most you’ll pay for a laptop with PCs for People is up to $150. These refurbished laptops are in great working condition and also come with free shipping. While they do have brick and mortar stores you can visit, if there isn’t one in your area, you can order online.  

They’re not the only organization that offers free laptops for students. Here are a few more to check out:

Ask your school for help

With schools making the decision to move classes online, there might be more opportunities to ask them for assistance with laptops or internet connectivity. 

The University of Michigan, for instance, allows students the opportunity to borrow a laptop for the entirety of their program. Reach out to your school to see if they have any similar programs, or an option that will hold you over until classes resume normally. 

Who should you reach out to? First, try your financial aid office. If they’re not able to help, they may be able to direct you to another source. 

How do online classes work? 

For some students, this will be the first time they’ve ever taken an online course. The transition from in-person to online can be jarring for a first-time student. It takes a lot more self-discipline and time management to show up for an online class compared to those you have to physically attend. 

We put together a few different resources aimed at helping students navigate the transition to online classes. 

This is a tough time that is deeply impacting our low income and minority students. If you find yourself struggling to keep on top of your work due to a lack of resources, reach out to your school immediately and let them know what you’re up against. 

After Social Distancing – Options for Students

As long as social distancing is in effect, the below resources are not available to students. If online learning should continue after the social distancing suggestion has been lifted, these are additional options you can rely on.

As always, check with the CDC about their Coronavirus protocol to make sure it is safe to break any of these protocols before heading to areas where there may be a high number of people.

Try Your Local Library

Many public libraries provide access to computer and internet service to ensure their community has access to educational and employment resources. 

A list of local public libraries is available via USA.gov. This extensive resource allows students to find libraries in their area that have connectivity and computers to borrow.

It’s suggested that you reserve the computer ahead of time. With high demand, it’s likely that availability will be limited for walk-ins. 

Head to a Community Center

Another option for computer and internet access are local community centers. Almost every city and town have a community center with a computer room available.

Again, it’s important to give them a call and schedule time to use the computers. While they’re available for everyone (usually with a time limit), you want to make sure you don’t have any trouble securing time upon walking in. 

Setup In a Coffee Shop & Restaurant

Though not always the most efficient place to study and do classwork, coffee shops like Starbucks often allow customers to use their WiFi free of charge. With Starbucks specifically, you don’t have to make a purchase to use their WiFi if you don’t have the money.

Other chain restaurants, like McDonald’s, often have free WiFi as well. Though you’ll always want to review their policy ahead of time. If they require you to make a purchase, try and buy a soda or something cheap on the menu. It will still allow you a few hours of time to get your work done. 

Even if your university or college has closed its doors, someone is likely still responding to phone calls and emails. Don’t wait until everything goes back to normal to play catch up. Ask for help where you can and check out each of these resources to see if they can assist you.

If you have any questions about potential financial resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at support@withfrank.org