New York State went into lockdown in March of 2020 to combat infection and death rates from the novel coronavirus. CUNY campuses opted for online distance learning like many colleges and universities across the country.
Hunter College has historically had among the top five highest retention rates out of all CUNY schools. According to data collected by the CUNY Office of Institutional Research, between 1996 and 2018, Hunter College’s retention rate was approximately 81.7% on average.
The online learning environment has proven to be difficult for teachers, students and parents across the country, according to the New York Times.
Jordi Amaya, a rising senior at Hunter College, said the switch to online learning ultimately led to his withdrawal from classes over the last school year.
“I just don’t think there’s an optimal way for professors to teach the material online,” he said. “I was lucky that mine were so understanding and tried to make the transition smoother, but I just felt like I wasn’t learning as much.”
Amaya said he took a gap year to focus on his mental health and found the break from school to be beneficial, not only for him but his loved ones.
“School takes a big chunk of anyone’s time. but with this break I’ve been able to work full time, enhance my people skills in the workforce, and save up money to eventually get my own apartment,” Amaya said. “I’ve also gained more responsibilities around the house and have been able to help my little brother more with his school work.”
He said he plans to return to school during the fall 2021 semester, with hopes that things will slowly return to normal. There is no set date for when Hunter College will return to in-person classes, but CUNY announced is looking towards gradually shifting the learning practices come the fall.
Other students like Lorena Meija decided to remain in school during the transition to online learning. Meija is a social work major and said she expects to graduate in the spring 2021 semester. She said the online transition was difficult to navigate during the initial lockdown.
“I got Covid at the beginning of quarantine last year in March, and it wasn’t until June that I was able to get an antibody test,” Meija said. “During the lockdown, it was really isolating for me because my parents were distancing themselves, and I wasn’t allowed to see my friends, or my partner of four years. It made me lose all motivation for school. With distance learning I wasn’t as engaged, and it makes me feel like my upcoming graduation isn’t deserved.”
Meija said she also had to navigate additional obstacles like balancing internships, working, and family struggles during the pandemic, like the death of her father-in-law.
“I love school and the past three years I’ve worked really hard but school honestly has been pushed to the back burner for me,” she said. “Distance learning was hard because of work, and my internship, and it was like, ‘What do I choose?’ School or making money, because how am I going to survive? When I did my taxes they charged me so much money. I’m working to pay that back now, and trying to be safe while doing so has been hard.”
In April 2020, the number of people receiving unemployment nationally from the government was 23.1 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In October, 62.7 percent of 2020 high school graduates nationally were enrolled in colleges or universities, as opposed to the 66.2 percent in 2019, according to the Bureau.
Enrollment at Hunter rose from 23,193 in 2019 to 24,052 in 2020, according to a financial report from the University Budget Office, despite the ongoing pandemic.