On Point for College Responds to Impact of Colleges’
COVID-19 Plans on Local Students
On Point for College assists more than 2,000 lower-income, first-generation students from across a seven-county area in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley, who are currently enrolled in college. We are paying very close attention to the evolving situation with colleges shifting to online instruction as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
March and April are historically busy times for On Point as we transport students home and then back to campus for their Spring Breaks. As colleges have different weeks off, and our students attend more than 300 different colleges nationwide (a significant majority attend colleges in New York State), we expect to interact with many of our students during this time of year. But this year is different. Some students will not be returning to campus after their Spring Breaks. Others will need to get back to campus to gather their belongings, and then leave again. Still others are not yet sure what will happen, as plans on their campuses are still evolving.
On Point students face many challenges—some of which can become barriers to success—on any given day of a normal college semester. Transportation is one good example—our students often need help getting to campus at the beginning and end of the semesters, as well as over breaks. Some of our students are housing-vulnerable: their campus accommodations are the most stable place they’ve lived. Some students do not have their own computers or laptops, and rely on campus computer labs to get their work done.
The shift to online course delivery will present new challenges, and intensify old ones. Transportation is the most pressing concern: if students have to leave campus unexpectedly, how will they get themselves and their belongings home? Students who are housing-vulnerable may have no home to return to if their campuses are closed. Students who return home but lack a computer, or whose homes lack internet access, will need help to complete their coursework that has shifted to online delivery.
On Point remains committed to helping our students navigate this period of turbulence so that they can persist in their pursuit of post-secondary education. On Point is gearing up to help students who need rides to get home safely. We are working with our long-time partners to secure short-term housing for students who do not have a permanent residence. We have reached out to neighborhood resources, like community centers and libraries, to find spaces where a few of our students at a time can use internet-connected computers to complete their online course work. We are developing plans to provide remote support for our students (via email, text, phone, chat, and communication apps) so that they can continue to receive the help that they would have received from On Point advisors during campus visits.
We also want to continue to help students who are not yet in college to pursue their college exploration and application process. However, out of an abundance of caution, we have temporarily suspended our college tours and our weekly visits to both local community colleges and area college access sites. At this time, advisors remain available to help students fill out financial aid forms and applications at our offices in Syracuse (488 West Onondaga Street) and Utica (500 Plant Street). If we need to entirely switch to remote service, we will post that notice immediately on our website, and on social media via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
On Point deeply appreciates the assistance of our community and college partners as we all scramble to take care of our students while we do our respective parts to protect the health of our community.