This week, El Paso Community College (EPCC) student Lluvia Gutierrez had a conversation about being a community college student during the pandemic with Davis Jenkins of Columbia University’s Teachers College and Dr. Monica Trent of Achieving the Dream.
The conversation, held December 16th, was moderated by Inside Higher Ed‘s Madeline St. Amour and explored how the global pandemic and economic crash are affecting U.S. two-year college students.
From lost jobs that caused food and housing insecurities to caring for children and simultaneously focusing on academic progress, community college students have had to be extremely focused and resilient during the pandemic.
Gutierrez, a criminal justice major, shared her experience having to rapidly transition to online learning combined with ensuring her own young children succeeded in their online school experience.
As the Criminal Justice Club’s president, she shared the importance of interaction among students along with the new challenges presented in finding ways to connect virtually. “The pandemic has affected me and all students in every way,” Gutierrez said. “We are all in a learning experience together.”
Jenkins who works with colleges, schools, community groups and employers expressed his concern about the number of students who have not enrolled in college despite the fact that most jobs of the future will require a degree or certificate. He encouraged the importance of finding best practices that will improve ways to improve educational and employment outcomes for all students.
“The pandemic has accelerated the best practices and implementation of more accessible services that are needed to better serve students,” Jenkins said.
Post-pandemic, community colleges will play an important role in ensuring community college students have a better chance of realizing economic opportunity. Trent described how implementing equity-minded services and engaging students is critical to advance students and our nation.
Gutierrez added that there are some positive outcomes from this experience that have made her stronger as a person and a student. She described how online group meetings and services had a powerful impact, but she looks forward to the time when traditional face to face courses and activities can take place again.
“Hopefully this settles down and we can go back to our normal lives and learn something from this pandemic,” Gutierrez said.