A year ago, the COVID-19 virus came to the surface and dramatically changed students’ lives in many aspects. Everything has changed quickly and drastically, with reality shifting from something we were used to, something we have never imagined. Businesses, schools, individual households, and society were faced with a new invisible enemy. To protect the world population, many of the previously considered essential were forced to shut down temporarily. College students across any subject field were put behind their laptop screens and began a new stage in their education. It was a necessary measure, yet it also impacted the UMass Boston mental students on a fundamental level. Many were fired from their jobs, lost interest in their degrees, and even dropped out, with others experiencing the intensified mental health problems and isolation. The institutions, similarly, were put under an increasing financial burden as the student interest in the academic career and the form it has taken continued to decrease. What were the overall consequences of the pandemic period for students, and how those affect the future of the higher education field moving forward?
To answer these questions, qualitative studies were considered, as their interview format allows for deeper insights into students’ experiences with the pandemic. A total of four sources was utilized for this assignment. It was chosen to cover different ways in which the pandemic has impacted college students worldwide. The study “The impact of COVID-19 on student experiences and expectations: Evidence from a survey” provides a general summary of how the image and the substance of the student learning and lifestyle changed due to the virus. It utilizes empirical studies and data interpretation to highlight the primary changes on a larger scale. The paper “Covid-19 pandemic and online learning: the challenges and opportunities” examines the specifics of digital learning and discuss its implications for the educational process. “Debate: Emergency mental health presentations of young people during the COVID‐19 lockdown” centers around the major crisis of mental health and well-being among students and young people in general. Finally, “The Impact of Covid-19 on Higher Education Around the World” report was used to discuss the financial constraints the pandemic has enforced on tertiary education students (International Association of Universities 38). These papers primarily examine the consequences of the pandemic worldwide, yet UMass Boston students are very much not an outlier.
Covid-19 has fundamentally and in the long term affect how students see their higher education and what they expect from it. The relevant study surveyed 1500 students in the largest public institution of the United States to achieve a representative sample. Despite the variance in the responses caused by variables like gender, socioeconomic status, number of years spent in college, and parental income, the impact of the pandemic is undeniable. 13% of students have delayed their graduation because of the environment generated by the virus, with the figures being as high as 55% for lower-income students (Aucejo et al. 260). For these groups, the decision correlates with an overall decrease of interest in their learning areas. As usual with unplanned large-scale negative occurrences, those of lower class and more vulnerable demographic are disproportionally affected. Furthermore, struggling college students are more likely to delay their graduation than Honour’s ones (Aucejo et al. 261). There is a general tendency across the student body to experience concerns concerning the overall value of their academic experience that currently barely resembles their previous expectations.
Through further COVID-related research in education, it is evident that remote learning provides the teachers and the students with both opportunities and challenges. Universities utilize a wide variety of their resources to ensure the sustainability of online learning and the best possible transmission of skills through the existing channels (Adedoyin and Soykan 1). Digital transformation and increased incorporation of online services, apps, and video content into regular learning have facilitated students’ somewhat smooth transition to online education. Professors across various fields have acted in an understanding and accommodating manner, organizing zoom consultations for the assignments and recording most of their lectures. The way the education system has transformed in a short time allowed many disabled and chronically ill students to access the resources previously available exclusively on campus.
Yet, compared to traditional face-to-face education, the critical digital approach remains lacking in the levels of connection it facilitates between a student and a teacher. For many students, the ability to discuss the topics relevant to their degrees with an expert was one of the key factors that continued to fuel their interest in their degrees. There is, therefore, a positive association between the introduction of compulsory online learning and students considering dropping out of their programs. Furthermore, the pandemic has revealed systemic imperfections in the current educational system and its susceptibility to external threats (Adedoyin and Soykan 10). Digital transformation of the institutions is an ongoing and largely unavoidable process, yet the system was not ready to implement such drastic and urgent changes. As a result, students have taken the hit with their academic careers severely impacted, particularly in the subject areas that prioritize the development of practical skills. Many perceive their online classes as a waste of time and effort, with colleges adopting the compulsory digital learning model.
For many, the academic difficulties and rapid transition to remote learning have decreased mental health, the appearance of suicidal thoughts, and intense feelings of loneliness and isolation. As anti-COVID lockdown measures were implemented, it greatly affected the existing outlets for socializing and spending time with friends and loved ones. Although necessary, when paired with the online learning challenges depicted above, these measures have been traumatizing for college students, many of whom have moved away from their homes and support bubbles for education. Research showcases that for many young people, reduced opportunities for face-to-face interactions resulted in the increased rates of self-harm (Ougrin 172). This isolation lies in the center of the increased risk of the development or the progression of the psychiatric disorder. Many of the already affected students were isolated from their mental health specialists and unable to receive proper in-person consultation and support. There was no sufficient action taken on the governmental or otherwise institutionalized level to facilitate these risks for the vulnerable young people.
When it comes to the impact on the future of higher education as a whole and how the pandemic consequences will continue to affect students moving forward, it is essential to address the financial difficulties. As examined below, students consider postponing their graduation and experience a general decrease in interest in their academic careers. The bigger picture implies a predicted reduction in student enrollment in universities, which puts higher education institutions under a financial strain (IAU Global Survey Report, 38). With tighter budgets, students might close certain rarer academic programs, which means fewer opportunities to choose their academic career path and fewer college placements. On the other side, students are directly affected by the restrictions applied to service and retail jobs, with many losing their primary sources of income (IAU Global Survey Report, 38). Therefore, many students are planning to take a gap year or abandon their education altogether due to not being able to afford it. The private accounts reveal the general atmosphere of hopelessness and confusion amongst the group with the growing level of insecurity in their futures.
In conclusion, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the student body in the United States and UMass Boston by extension has been negative, and significantly so. The social researchers record lower interest in academics and the general sense of purposeless, fueled by progressing mental health issues and financial difficulties on both students and colleges. It is now more evident than ever that the educational system is less prepared for the total digitalization that some previously believed. Yet, new resources have been utilized throughout the pandemic to provide students with additional support they so desperately need. It is always advisable to extract the positives out of the otherwise negative situation, and the steps towards greater accessibility should remain when the virus is finally defeated. Although students and universities have a rocky and challenging part ahead of them, the insights and digital innovations applied during the pandemic period will inform and facilitate future development. To continue their education in their beloved college, the UMass Boston mental students deserve greater support systems on academic, financial, and psychological levels.
Adedoyin, Olasile Babatunde, and Emrah Soykan. “Covid-19 Pandemic And Online Learning: The Challenges And Opportunities”. Interactive Learning Environments, 2020, pp. 1-13. Informa UK Limited. Web.
Aucejo, Esteban M. et al. “The Impact Of COVID-19 On Student Experiences And Expectations: Evidence From A Survey”. Journal Of Public Economics, vol. 191, 2020, pp. 104-271. Elsevier BV. Web.
International Association of Universities. The Impact Of Covid-19 On Higher Education Around The World. 2020, p. 38. Web.
Ougrin, Dennis. “Debate: Emergency Mental Health Presentations Of Young People During The COVID‐19 Lockdown”. Child And Adolescent Mental Health, vol 25, no. 3, 2020, pp. 171-172. Wiley. Web.