Hunter College Students Sees Enrollment Increase During Pandemic

Hunter College saw a 4.1% decline in retention rates in 2018, according to the CUNY Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. But in 2020, enrollment rose from 23,193 to 24,052, according to a financial report from the University Budget Office.

New York State went into lockdown in March 2020 which has led to many challenges for students and faculty at Hunter like lack of motivation, increased workload for students and more, according to a survey from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Consortium.

The report found that 76% of all undergraduates surveyed identified a lack of motivation as the biggest obstacle to online learning. The survey was taken by 22,519 undergraduate students and 7,690 graduate and professional students from five large, public research universities from May through June 11. 

It focused on students’ experiences in the spring semester  of 2020, when institutions across the country transitioned online due to the pandemic.

Hunter student Tyrese Spruill economic difficulties were a hurdle during the pandemic. Spruill said he has encountered financial issues before, but during the pandemic, a bursar hold prevented him from registering for classes until two weeks into the spring semester of 2021. He said his financial aid should have covered all costs, but he was notified late that a document was missing.

Spruill joined New York Public Interest Group, a non-partisan, nonprofit, research and public education organization, as an intern that semester. He was invited to speak about his situation at a rally by Ryan Carson, a leader of the NYPIRG higher education chapter.

The PSC Press Conference Opposing Course Cancellations was held to advocate for classes not be cancelled based on  the threshold for minimum students. The group also called on the CUNY administration to temporarily lift the restrictions on re-enrollment of students who owed money from last semester.

“It makes it sound like if I didn’t go to this rally, if I didn’t go in front of a recorded session, with different students, faculty, and people from the press, saying that I need my account to be looked at,” his hold wouldn’t be lifted, Spruill said. “I needed to put actual news correspondence on this, in order for something to be done.”

Spruill said he was relieved to get the bursar hold lifted, but was left at a disadvantage for his Hebrew class, because he missed two weeks of vocabulary and other materials. 

Senior Jocelyn Guallpa said she has lost motivation and finds it hard to stay focused amid the ongoing pandemic.

“The workload seems to have increased since transitioning to online, which creates even more stress,” she said. To add on the challenges of remote learning, Guallpa has an unstable Internet connection, which she said has led her to give up and not attend classes.

In the fall of 2020, Guallpa had an exam that was cut short by her professor to prevent cheating, and students only got 30 minutes for a 35 questions.

“I thought it was ridiculous, because in the past we usually get the entire class period to complete an exam, and personally I like to have time to go over my work at the end,” she said. “It just creates more stress.” 

Guallpa said what she misses most about Hunter is seeing her friends on a regular basis and having access to resources such as printing and desktop computers. 

On May 5, Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab sent an email to Hunter students announcing  plans for reopening the campus for the upcoming fall semester. With the increase of vaccine availability, Raab said the  goal is for the majority of the classes to be fully or partially in person.