No Home, No Wi-Fi: Pandemic Adds to Strain on Poor College Students

No Home, No Wi-Fi: Pandemic Adds to Strain on Poor College Students

Michelle Macario was struggling to follow online classes through the tiny screen of her smartphone. She had no laptop and no Wi-Fi at home, and the library where she normally studied at her community college in Los Angeles was closed. So two weeks into the coronavirus shutdown in the spring, she dropped all of her courses to avoid failing.

Things aren’t much better this semester. Ms. Macario, 18, who is majoring in psychology at Santa Monica College, left the crowded apartment in Los Angeles that she shared with her immigrant family from Guatemala and has been crashing with her sister and friends. But the Wi-Fi is unreliable, she’s living too far away from her hospital internship, and she toils to tap out exams and homework on her phone.

“Between the internet, Covid and couch surfing, I haven’t been able to do a good semester,” Ms. Macario said.

Trapped between the financial hardships of the pandemic and the technological hurdles of online learning, the millions of low-income college students across America face mounting obstacles in their quests for higher education. Some have simply dropped out, as Ms. Macario did previously, while others are left scrambling to find housing and internet access amid campus closures and job losses.