Credit: Chart courtesy of: Maya Pottiger of Word in Black, Source: Census Household Pulse Survey

 (302211)Two different school years started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even for Fall 2021, the second school year—and 18 months and several vaccine options later—the pandemic is still impacting our lives.

The latest round of Household Pulse surveys from the Census Bureau shows that, in the six surveys since August, only 40% of Black respondents have reported no change to their higher education plans. This is compared to 44% of white, 43% of Asian and 35% of Hispanic respondents.

However, HBCU applications have soared during the pandemic, with Baltimore’s Morgan State University seeing as much as a 60% bump in prospective students. Meanwhile, college enrollment has been falling nationwide at a steady decline since the beginning of the pandemic.

For the 12-17 age bracket, three responses had big discrepancies: the cost of the vaccine (it’s free to everyone, and health insurance is not required), the parent or guardian doesn’t vaccinate their children, and believing that other people have a higher need. Black respondents were more than twice as likely to pick these options.

Though this survey was conducted before people aged 5-11 were able to get vaccinated, it offers insights into what vaccinations might look like in each group once data becomes available.

Unfortunately, the survey results do not show the reasons for change by race or ethnicity. But the top reasons related to having to cancel all plans to take classes were not being able to pay educational expenses due to a pandemic-related financial change (57%) and caring for others “whose arrangements are disrupted” (54%).And some HBCUs are looking to lighten the mental load off of its students if they were to make it to higher education.Lincoln University, in a collaboration with TimelyMD, has developed a program to offer 24-hour-a-day, 7-day counseling (with licensed physicians) to students as an extension of its campus health and counseling center. Students would be able to make telephone or video calls to speak with specialists from all 50 states.

“According to The American College Health Association, mental health needs are related to measures of academic success,” stated Rachel Manson, director of counseling services for Lincoln. “It is our hope that when students are connected with mental health professionals, when they need it, psychological distress will be reduced, improving students’ overall wellness and academic outcomes.”

Luke Hejl, TimelyMD CEO and co-founder, said that the higher-ups at the organization were proud to provide virtual care to help Lincoln University students.

“College students said the No. 1 thing their campuses can do to support them right now is provide more virtual services focused on their health and well-being, such as telehealth and teletherapy,” stated Hejl.

But to even get to that point might require taking out loans to attend school.

We also know that student loan debt is breaking the backs of Black students. Even before the pandemic and its financial strains, Black people owed more money and had less financial means to pay it back, the AFRO newspaper wrote. Further, a CNBC report found that about 87% of Black college students take out loans to attend school, compared to only about 60% of white students.

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