Student enrollment is declining as a result of pandemic 

OSWEGO, N.Y. — A noticeable number of college students are choosing to discontinue their education nationwide as a result of the pandemic,  according to a study. 

With all of the uncertainty and mayhem that came with COVID-19, people were forced to learn and work from home.  This public health crisis created a stigma where people were seen as walking illness carriers, and many people were concerned for the health of themselves and their loved ones, according to Project Hope official, Olga Fargas. 

“Project HOPE has mounted a global response to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which has now infected more than 140 million people around the world and killed over 3 million,” said Fargas.

Project Hope is a nonprofit organization that takes pride in saving lives worldwide. In reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Hope has made it their mission to support frontline healthcare workers, expand vaccine access, provide medical surge support where needed, and accommodate those in distress due to COVID with their emotional support help-line, Fargas said.

As a means to cope with this abrupt shift in social culture, and stay connected with the rest of the world, Zoom was launched as a contingency plan. Fargas said the effects of virtual interaction have resulted in many students feeling emotionally and mentally overwhelmed. 

“There is no definitive way to describe, in detail, how COVID impacted all people in the country, but in my experience thus far, college students have been the most psychologically affected demographic,” Fargas said. 

Fargas said COVID-19 had a high impact on high-education individuals and says the launching of remote learning and or highly regulated in-person class setup has created a disincentive for students to attend classes. 

“I want to keep things as confidential as possible, but I have run into several college students that feel college right now is too much of a psychological burden to attend,” Fargas said. “Their fear of contracting this illness is burdensome.”

College institutions are a place where students tend to come to embrace an atmosphere where they are free to learn, grow, and develop. Not in only academics, but in their social life as well. The shift from traditional in-class learning to a virtual online setup received varied feedback, according to Fargas. Some students responded well to learning material, whereas others had a more displeasing experience grasping the concepts due to relative worries regarding their health. 

Damon Sinsabaugh, a 22-year-old former Rockland Community College student, said his experience in terms of attending college during the pandemic. Sinsabaugh explained how he is a Type 1 diabetic. In his time-sharing, he provided more background shedding light on his condition. He explained his pancreas produces little to no insulin, putting him at high risk in terms of getting very sick from COVID-19. 

“I stopped going to school after quarantine because I was genuinely concerned with my health,” Sinsabaugh said. “I would rather be safe than sorry.” 

Sinsabaugh was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of three, and the concerns of his mother, he shared, also influenced him on the decision to take a break from school. 

The fear of contracting the virus has acted as a great obstacle in Sinsabaugh completing his education, he said. With all of the unknowns and chaos that came with the pandemic, Sinsabaugh said the riskiness of attending college in person would do more harm than good during the time. 

“This virus came out of nowhere and changed our lives overnight it seemed,” Sinsabaugh said. “I was forced to make decisions with consideration to my health, and I’m happy I did so because by taking these precautions, I potentially saved my life.”

Sinsabaugh is attentive to the modern-day statistics relating to COVID-19 cases and anticipates returning to school when it is guaranteed a safe environment for him to do so.

The pandemic created an atmosphere where people worldwide were faced with uncertainty and change. The controversy over the virus left many college students, in particular, struggling with maintaining good grades and balancing their mental obstacles with studying, according to Fargas. On the other hand, other students found that the pandemic helped them stay  consistent with them being academically sound. 

David Chandler, 21,  who graduated from the Refrigeration Institute in Manhattan said he performed his best, academically, during the pandemic, but not too long after colleges were enabled to allow in-person attendance, Chandler tested positive for COVID-19.

“Learning, for me, was more so bittersweet,” Chandler said. “I appreciated the protocols my school took to attempt to ensure our safety and comfort while learning, but I still ended up contracting the virus, somehow.” 

Chandler said his symptoms weren’t as severe as many people who also had the virus. His symptoms included loss of taste and smell, nausea, pains in the lower back, and chills. Chandler still managed to keep a positive perception during this difficult time and took advantage of exploring learning through a different lens. 

“In my experience, the classroom setup allowed me to be more focused while engaging in class work and remaining attentive while learning the material,” Chandler said.

Chandler has graduated from the Refrigeration Institute as of May 2021, and commends all students back then and currently who have been faced with repercussions due to COVID. 

“A lot of students are choosing to prioritize their health and safety during this time, and I can understand it,” Chandler said. “As a COVID survivor, and someone who has studied in an institution during this unprecedented time, I can say firsthand that it is a necessary worry to have. Students should be allowed to learn without fear.”