To the Editor,
The pandemic has been quite the talk of the town for a while now, especially since Westfield State students were just sent home due to many case spikes on campus. Many students all across Massachusetts rely on their college campuses for food and housing insecurity relief, primarily through their local food pantries.
It may come as a shock, but 40% of college students have experienced food insecurity during the pandemic, and 14% of those at 4-year institutions and 11% of those at 2-year institutions have experienced homelessness during the pandemic. Hundreds of colleges and universities have opened food pantries to support their students. Still, it simply is not enough since most students don’t have access to campus due to remote learning, and budget cuts on campuses are not helping this situation.
On top of all of this, 2-year institutions and many state schools that already have less money are facing more hardships than ever. Many students have switched to part-time status during these times of financial hardship. The CARES Act helped many higher education institutions and their students, and while this is a great start, students need more than one round of financial support. Since the original bill was based on enrollment, many schools with more part-time students were not awarded as much assistance, which resulted in a lower allocation of funds to their students. All of this was recently conveyed to congress members across the country during the Student PIRG national Hunger and Homelessness campaign Lobby Day. Many students from MASSPIRG, a student-advocacy public interest organization, participated in this event by advocating for themselves as Massachusetts Representatives and Senators’ constituents. We have been working tirelessly to improve college students’ conditions, especially since the impacts of COVID-19 have not lightened up, and education costs are still burdening students everywhere.
The main goal is for institutional funding to be based on headcount rather than enrollment status, which will give more money to more students across the country. The people of Massachusetts need to band together and push for another stimulus bill to be passed to support the Commonwealth and students residing here.
Westfield State University
MASSPIRG Students Chapter Chair