For the past sixteen months, we have all been living in a state of uncertainty, increased anxiety, and a constant wish for things to return to “normal.” To put it simply, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us has experienced trauma. For some, the trauma has had little impact, but for others, the trauma of the pandemic will remain in place for a significant amount of time.
At our current juncture, where institutions are planning to return to “pre-COVID” work schedules and class sizes, we need to recognize there is no return to “normal,” but rather an opportunity to create a “new normal.”
One area where we need to focus on what the new normal will look like is with our students. To begin to create the environment and culture of a new normal, we first have to understand what our students have experienced since many of them were sent away from our institutions last March.
The Hope Center #RealCollegeSurvey from fall 2020 revealed 3 in 5 students experienced basic needs insecurity during the pandemic. For 48 percent of students, housing insecurity was an issue they experienced, with 34 percent of students facing food insecurity. The information from this survey paints a picture of students who will be returning to our campuses in need of institutions to offer support services that go beyond what we normally provide. It makes us ask the question: If our students are not having their basic needs met, how can we expect them to engage in classes, focus during exams, become involved on campus, and ultimately be retained and complete a degree?
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