In an effort to protect students during the COVID-19 pandemic, student advocates across California released a joint statement on common needs and policy recommendations to the University of California, California State University and California community colleges Wednesday.
This joint statement put out by the California Student Higher Education Advocacy Round Table (HEART) centered around six main areas of urgency — financial aid, learning, basic needs, admission and graduation, student workers and undocumented students as well as other affected students.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that within our most vulnerable system that serves our most vulnerable students, we don’t have very much of anything at all, and that is something that needs to change,” said Amine El Moznine, a member of the Student Senate for Community Colleges and its vice president of Legislative Affairs.
Focusing on the learning portion of the HEART statement, El Moznine recommended extending the deadline for credit/no credit classes for students struggling to adapt to learning online.
El Moznine also stressed the importance of emergency technology grants for students who need technology to learn at home.
Carolyn Tinoco, another student advocate and a Cal Fresh Food coordinator, centered in on the basic needs area of the statement. Basic needs include housing, food and mental health services. Especially in the time of COVID-19, students are having a tough time meeting their basic needs, Tinoco said.
“Especially in CSU schools, we already know that one out of every four students is food insecure and one out of every 10 students is housing insecure,” Tinoco said.
The HEART letter includes recommendations to maintain food pantries, waive fees for any on campus leases that were broken off and other basic needs.
Another main concern that the student advocates held is the lack of consistency throughout the different college systems. This lack of consistency and coordination across campus services has created a lot of confusion, stress, anxiety, and misinformation, said Valerie Johnson, a Transfer Student Affairs officer and a member of the UC Student Association.
For example, looking at the CSU system, “only eight out of 23 campuses have pushed back the deadline for students to submit their intent to register,” said Sasha Perez, a student engagement manager and a member of Campaign for College Opportunity.
Now that the crisis has hit, it has revealed how little California community colleges in particular have in terms of mental health access specifically, but also basic needs funding as a whole, El Moznine said.
This statement made by the group was meant to call higher education leaders to action and give a voice to students struggling because of COVID-19, according to Perez.
There is no deadline for UC, CSU, and CCC institutions to respond to the HEART letter, according to Audrey Dow, a member of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
The next HEART call is scheduled for May 8 at 3 p.m.