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Northeast Ohio Schools Increase Aid for Students Struggling Because of the Pandemic

food distribution at KSU's campus kitchen
Bob Christy
Kent State University
Cassie Pegg-Kirby, director of the Women’s Center at Kent State University, distributes donated food on the loading dock at Beall Hall where it will be given to local families who find themselves in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 has put a financial burden on many Ohioans, including college students. Even before the pandemic, one study found that one-third of students at four-year schools faced food and housing insecurity. Many schools are stepping up to take care of the increase in their students’ needs.

Since the semester began, colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio have been expanding programs that offer emergency aid to students. Asha Fairley, an intern at the online news site The Land, recently took a look at these programs and spoke with some of the students utilizing them. She says these programs, many of which existed before the pandemic, are now essential to helping students combat food insecurity and other financial struggles.

“In times like this, the services that we might have took for granted are what we actually really need,” Fairley said.

Although she found the stigma attached to this assistance decreasing, she still sees students struggling to ask for help.

“But now that we’re in a pandemic, I think the big struggles that students have had—and I know I’ve even had it personally—is when is it okay to ask for help?” she said.

Fairley hopes the decreased stigma of seeking financial assistance will be a permanent change.

Fairley on the stigma of receiving help

“I think that even after the pandemic, or however we proceed or get back to a normal way of living, the stigma will start to ease even more because people will start thinking, ‘This doesn’t even really matter,'" she said. "The stigma tied to it of who needs help and who doesn’t need help doesn’t really matter.”

Fairley says schools are recognizing that helping students connect with the support they need will lead to greater academic success.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media. A Northeast Ohio native and lifelong listener of public radio, Abigail started in public radio as a news intern at WKSU. She graduated in 2022 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Kent State University.