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Support Services Available to Students During COVID

January 20, 2021

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. - The COVID-19 pandemic has caused financial struggles for many, and community college students have been among those hit hardest.

Student enrollments are down at colleges and universities nationally, with community colleges suffering significant drops. Even with just a modest enrollment dip this past Fall, SUNY Orange proactively rolled out several programs and resources to assist students in navigating the pandemic, including "Ask a Nurse" and a COVID-19 virtual support group.

Additionally, the College boasts a broad menu of programming designed to help students thrive, including offering a Student Emergency Fund, a Food Pantry, a Chromebook lending program, veterans and military resources, and academic support services through its Center for Student Success. These programs and services allow the College to both meet students' ongoing need for basic necessities, while also helping them successfully complete their studies.

The "Ask a Nurse" service is a new online form provided by the College's Wellness Center and allows staff nurses to answer questions about common health concerns, including COVID-19, colds and flu, immunization requirements, and health insurance. The COVID-19 Virtual Support group provides support and assistance to students in handling the challenges of being a college student during the COVID-19 pandemic. The weekly virtual meetings address topics such as isolation, anxiety and depression, time management, challenges of forming new friendships during social distancing, as well as the challenges of handling college courses remotely. To provide additional remote support, the Wellness Center, along with Admissions, Student Services, the Library, Accessibility Services, and several other departments offer "Live Chat" services that can quickly answer student questions online. 

The College also manages a Student Emergency Fund, supported by donations from private foundations and the SUNY Orange Foundation, to provide aid to current students going through an unforeseen crisis or emergency, such as homelessness, threat of eviction, a medical emergency, domestic violence, theft, or disruptions to transportation or child care.

For adult student Michael V., the pandemic struck during his first time back to college in 10 years. “When I couldn't pay my rent in April, I was almost forced to drop out of school...but luckily [with] your emergency fund, I was able to forget about my rent, focus on my school and succeed. I would not have been able to complete the Spring semester without your help.”

The fund also helped nursing student Tamara F. stay on track to finish her degree: “It is because of your generosity that I will be graduating this Fall semester, be able to become a registered nurse, and help others.” Tamara told the College last summer.

The pandemic has also exacerbated existing food insecurity. A recent survey of SUNY Orange students indicated that more than 40 percent of respondents reported experiencing limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate safe foods in the previous 12 months. Increasingly, many students both locally and across the country don’t know the source of their next meal.

Prior to the pandemic, the SUNY Orange Food Pantry had been slowly growing with donations from local churches, faculty and staff members, and even some students. Demand had been surging also. However, while the pantry has been physically closed during the pandemic, the College continues to support students by offering ShopRite gift cards to those who express a need. In normal times, the Food Pantry is open to all registered SUNY Orange students and staff members, regardless of income, who may be experiencing food insecurity. The use of the pantry is completely anonymous and confidential.

With the pandemic forcing the majority of classes online, access to technology is now more important than ever. Students without access to technology would be unable to continue their studies online. Fortunately, SUNY Orange's Chromebook Lending Program has responded to student needs by loaning out more than 250 Chromebooks since the beginning of the pandemic to allow students to continue their programs without interruption. The program continues to provide these devices to any current student with a technology need.

Other pandemic-related programs and resources provided by the College include resources for veteran and military students navigating their way through college; and programs offered by the Center for Student Success, which provides current students with online support, tutoring and workshops.

A comprehensive listing of all of the resources available to students during the pandemic, can be found on the College's website at: https://sunyorange.edu/covid-19/student-resources.html.