A recent survey of college students nationwide taken in the wake of the pandemic found half have been laid off or had hours reduced, almost a third lacked access to healthy meals and 17% lacked safe, reliable housing.
Students who are also parents — already far more likely to face challenges meeting basic needs — may be harder hit still.
“There's just a lot of panic; we're all terrified,” said Khan, who works at UC Berkeley’s Student Parent Center. “We need a lot of support right now.”
Khan said she’s heard from many student parents who have lost jobs or had hours cut. “They're barely managing to get food on the table,” she said.
A 2019 survey by the University of California found undergrad parents were more likely, by 15 percentage points, to deal with food insecurity than students without kids, and nearly three times as likely to have experienced homelessness.
At UCLA, Reyes has found herself relying on a food program that collects and distributes goods approaching their expiration date, and she says she’s not alone. “There are lines of students just waiting to go get bread that's going to go stale in a couple days — it's like actually waiting in bread lines,” Reyes said. “It's a bad feeling.”
Khan argues parenting students need special consideration from their schools during the crisis. Instead they often feel like an afterthought, she said.
She credits UC Berkeley for acting quickly to shift education online and make accommodations for students living in dorms, including allowing refunds for canceled housing and dining contracts. But for students living in the school’s family housing, Khan said, “there was no information sent out whatsoever.”
The school eventually told students in University Village family housing they can get out of rental contracts early and won’t be charged for late rental payments. Emergency loans are also available, and students can apply to have their financial aid adjusted based on their new economic reality.
Administrators will work with students who don’t pay rent, a university spokesperson said, and come up with a repayment plan. Rents at University Village in Albany range from $1,500 to $2,300.
“We are committed to allowing people to remain in their housing while the shelter in place remains in effect and while the campus has remote instruction and remote work in place,” the spokesperson said in a statement.