As COVID-19 pandemic cases continue to rise, governments around the world are imposing increasingly tough measures in a bid to stem its spread. Universities, restaurants, transportation, and some non-essential facilities will be closed as people are encouraged to stay home and observe social distancing.
Students living on-campus have been advised to go home and many schools have decided to conduct classes online.
However, many students, particularly international students, who are far away from home have important concerns. Where will they live? How long can they sustain themselves without work? How will they access online classes without WiFi or a computer of their own? What are they going to do without access to medical resources?
Current Issues and Challenges
Per US laws, international students need to live within the city limits of their universities and must take a minimum of 12 credit hours of classes conducted in person. If they don’t follow these rules, their student visas could be revoked.
These rules may be relaxed due to the mass transition to online classes; however, the majority of international students live on campus because they don’t have the means to rent off-campus. They also don’t have family or friends who can help them, or the financial means to go back to their home countries.
Canada, meanwhile, has also sealed its borders, and a number of Canadian universities have ordered students in residence to leave as soon as possible to help slow the spread of coronavirus on university campuses. On some campuses, students who live in residence have been told they have until just before midnight on March 18 to comply.
University officials have cited the aim of flattening the curve as a reason for the closure. However, they have also offered allowances for extraordinary cases, such as international students, out-of-province students needing extra time to move out, students who live more than five hours away from campus, and students who are currently self-isolating.
Schools have implemented student housing measures at the time of coronavirus.
Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut, US)
Alumni have created a spreadsheet of resources they can offer to help students. The spreadsheet, which has been posted in numerous Yale groups and boosted on social media, includes tabs for housing, financial and travel assistance, and one where students can state exactly what they need. The spreadsheet is continuously being updated. Over 180 members of the Yale community collectively have either offered financial help or lodging to students in need.
Boston University (Boston, Massachusetts, US)
The campus has advised students not to return to the campus after spring break. However, campus housing and dining halls will be available for students who are unable to return to their homes.
For those who choose to stay at the campus residence, housing and dining refunds will be reevaluated if the campus extends its COVID-19 health precautions. The university has set up an office for students experiencing financial hardships. Also, the faculty will provide a digitized version of necessary textbook materials.
Cape Breton University (Nova Scotia, Canada)
For students who are unable to return home, residence buildings will remain open and essential services including limited meals will continue to be offered. At this time, the campus is still limiting Harris Hall dining to students with a 5 or 7-day meal plan only though guest privileges in residence continue to be suspended until further notice.
Laurentian University (Ontario, Canada)
Campus residences will remain open to accommodate international students who cannot go back to their countries and who must continue to be enrolled full-time. Services like the bookstore will also remain open. The international students’ insurance covers the outbreak so they are eligible to claim medical expenses. The International Service Office is the point office for questions.
St. Louis University – Madrid (Madrid, Spain)
The campus has implemented online video conferencing to support online teaching for the students, making sure that their education will not be disrupted. Meanwhile, the campus residence should be vacated immediately and students should bring their belongings. For international students, the campus makes sure to help them create accommodations and all of the campus resources are available and will continue to support each of them.
There’s also the matter of food plans. At Rutgers University, the student government reserved $10,000 in supplemental funds to stock the food pantry on campus as it maintains its normal operating hours. UC Riverside is offering gift cards to local grocery stores, complementing the usual R’Pantry services.
Whether they have tightened rules around student housing, closed dorms and residence halls indefinitely, or caused confusion or offered resolution, colleges and universities have a serious task ahead to cover for student accommodation needs at a very challenging time.
Stay tuned to our ongoing coverage of COVID-19 news and international education on MSM Reporter.