The Next 400: Is a return to higher education after Covid putting up barriers for minority students?

The Next 400: Young activists fight for social justice in their own way
The Next 400: Young activists fight for social justice in their own way
Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 10:27 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - For minorities, academic recovery from the pandemic could be an uphill battle, especially when it comes to higher education.

Covid changed the way students learned over the past year. Some educators at an area community college are wondering if more roadblocks have been created that shouldn’t be there.

The Covid Pandemic closed the book on in-person classes for nearly a year.

Changing the way students learn from a seat in the classroom to remote learning online.

DeAndre Wilson, a Cuyahoga Community College / Tri-C graduate, moved on to a four-year college. But felt stalled by virtual courses put in place due to the coronavirus, “That’s when it felt like I was struggling a little bit in my classes because it just didn’t feel the same. It wasn’t something I was used to – so that’s when I made the decision like maybe I should take a break.”

Linda Lanier, an Associate Professor of Counseling at Cuyahoga Community College, tells 19 News, “Students at Metro do no by our own data – do well in a virtual online environment. Online classes are the highest failure rate.”

So, could online courses, combined with access to fewer course offerings for Tri-C’s Metro students, make the comeback to the classroom a challenge?

Doctor Denise McCory, President of the Metro Campus, says all campuses have been treated the same with limited on-campus services and limited classes during the coronavirus pandemic, “Our fall schedule will look very different from fall of 2020 because we’re trying to kind of rebuild from Covid. But, also very different from Fall of 2019. Because we’re not quite at the point yet where we’re doing the level of on-ground activity that we had pre-Covid.”

There is also concern by the administration about just how to bring students back on campus after a global health crisis, “Because we don’t know people’s status as far as vaccination is concerned. We’re going to have to assume that everybody is not vaccinated. Everyone is unvaccinated, and we’re going to have to make sure that we stay conservative in our approach to keep everybody safe, Dr. McCory said.

The other issue, in-person classes offered at this time are still not at full capacity. But the President of the Metro campus says they do plan to offer more classes when they top out, “I was just looking at the data for the fall semester. None of our fully on-ground classes have filled up, so we haven’t seen the demand. But it’s still relatively early,” according to Dr. McCory.

While some suburban campuses have transitioned back to the CLASSROOM in part, Metro students are still getting their education in large part remotely. Associate Professor Lanier feels that’s a clear disadvantage, “We know who’s going to be hurt the most, first of all, students of color, students who lack technology, it’s poor students.”

The Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro Campus, with about 4,000 students, had approximately 70% of them taking classes in-person before the pandemic. Now, concerns they may be forced to travel to another campus to get access to courses.

Diane Gaston is an Associate Professor who says programs like social work or human services are no longer offered at Metro, a popular field for minority students, “Our motto is Tri-C is where futures begin. It doesn’t line up with that motto if certain students don’t have the opportunity for the same access.”

But could fewer course offerings, coupled with continued online learning, force minority students already historically disadvantaged to put college on hold and detour their path to progress? Former student DeAndre says he’s a proud graduate of Tri-C but wants the playing field to be level whether you’re at Metro or in the suburbs.

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