Student Supports During COVID-19
Keeping Advising Accessible
The Future Focused Texas (FFTX) campaign was initiated in 2020 as a response to the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. Access to high-quality college and career advising in high school is critical to helping students prepare to enroll and succeed in postsecondary education. Yet advisors and counselors were challenged by school closures, virtual learning, and social distancing. FFTX stepped in to provide high school counselors with ready-to-use digital information on the college application and enrollment process to share with their students in a virtual environment. FFTX provides students with beneficial, timely information and also saves advisers the time of pulling materials together – allowing them to dedicate more of their day to meeting one-on-one with their students.
The campaign was spearheaded by a network of collaborators including Get Schooled, Texas College Access Network (TxCAN), United for College Success, College Forward, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Texas OnCourse. FFTX was supported through grants to Get Schooled by Greater Texas Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Adapting Professional Practices
Recognizing that the impact of the pandemic on college and career advising will likely extend beyond the end of the crisis, the foundation also invested in a study at Sam Houston State University to evaluate how Texas advisers adapted during the pandemic. Preliminary results suggest over three quarters of the advisers in the study believed their institution handled COVID-19 response effectively. However, nearly 60% indicated COVID-19 caused them to reevaluate their professional goals.
Researchers hope to identify advising practices that worked well during the pandemic and make recommendations for what innovations to continue.
Emergency Aid Grants
The reality is that students across the state struggle to meet basic needs. This issue was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as students lost employment, or their parents lost jobs. In 2020, 65% of students in Texas experienced some form of basic needs insecurity.
- 16% of Texas college students were homeless
- 43% experienced food insecurity
- 55% experienced housing insecurity (1)
In response to the increased need that emerged in 2020, Greater Texas Foundation prioritized providing critical financial support for students to persist in their education. Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, the foundation awarded grants to the Texas Higher Education Foundation and the Blinn College Foundation to bolster emergency aid programs across the state as well as near our home in Bryan. Emergency aid provides financial assistance to students who face unexpected crises that could prevent them from persisting in their education.
A look at the emergency aid applications received by Blinn College illustrates the needs of their students:
“I am fully dedicated to becoming a nurse, even more so now that I have seen the effects of this pandemic. If I was granted funds, it would help relieve financial stress and allow me to better focus on my studies.”
“I'm facing hardship because I'm a full-time student as well as a mother to a teenager. My apartment complex will not work with me and I'm struggling to pay rent and provide for me and my child. I do not want to be homeless, let alone homeless with a child.”
Funding awarded to the Texas Higher Education Foundation was distributed to institutions through a request for proposals process. The impact of the program was significant: through the Texas Emergency Aid Grant Program, 1,713 students received emergency grants. Of the students who received aid in the fall, 93% re-enrolled at their institutions. Student testimonials show the positive impact of these timely and targeted grants:
I was able to stay afloat and not be evicted from my apartment.
As a self-supporting, independent student, having a greater sense of food security helps me to focus on my studies, rather than wondering about my next meal.
Grant support from Greater Texas Foundation enabled the Texas Tribune to report the impact of COVID-19 on higher education. Take a look at examples of the Tribune’s reporting here:
- Texas enrollment and FAFSA applications down, as education leaders worry pandemic is disrupting college plans
- One wanted normalcy and one went remote: How two West Texas universities operated in COVID-19 hot spots this fall
- As Texas universities prepare to send thousands of students home for the holidays, few are requiring COVID-19 safety precautions