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Rising to Meet Student Needs in a Post-Pandemic Era

The COVID-19 pandemic forced a shift from an in-person college experience to virtual learning and simultaneously brought increased awareness to the reality of students’ challenges and educational barriers.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s article, “Connecting with the Whole Student Experience,” offers insight into the socio-economic challenges today’s college students face – including food and housing insecurities, childcare costs, and mental health struggles. The article, which is part of a larger report, “Reimagining the Student Experience,” was published in August 2022. 

One challenge facing students is the rising cost of course materials. Faculty at North Park University, a private liberal arts institution in Chicago, noticed that many of their students didn't purchase textbooks at the start of the semester and, as a result, weren't prepared for class. In an effort to improve student readiness, the university now offers several textbook assistance resources including their library reserve (for textbook copies requested from the faculty), an interlibrary option, a textbook and course supply assistance program, and the ability to rent or purchase affordable course materials through a partnership with Akademos.

At SUNY Polytechnic Institute, a public institution in Utica, “Students were waiting until well into the semester to buy books and were falling behind in their classes.”  While struggling to meet basic needs, like putting food on the table, some students delayed purchasing their textbooks or put it off completely. To help alleviate these constraints, the school converted a portion of their on-campus store that used to house textbooks into a food pantry, available to all students. They also introduced an online bookstore with competitive pricing through Akademos for the 2021 Fall Semester.

While it’s hard to find the silver linings of a pandemic, it did bring greater awareness to the struggles many college students face and how institutions acknowledging and supporting these struggles, sometimes in untraditional ways, can help lead to overall student success.

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