Skip to main content

Letter: College students face tough decisions during COVID-19 era


The Detroit News  |  The Detroit News

“Home for the holidays” for college students and their families promises to look different this year; after all it is 2020. While at home, conversations will likely cover a wide-range of topics and perhaps one of the most important is a discussion of the student’s plans for next semester.

While words like “synchronous and asynchronous” classes have become part of the student lexicon, while attempts at offering a traditional college experience, including on-campus learning, student housing and student activities, remains a tremendous challenge. Faculty and administrators throughout Michigan and across the country are making every effort to provide this experience while students are taking great strides to learn and adapt in this remote learning format. The goal for all is to ensure students stay on track with their education.

This environment is challenging and, for many college students, the idea of taking a semester off in the hopes that college will “return to normal” in the near future may sound appealing, but shouldn’t. Every semester, students come to us with situations that cause tremendous disruption to their academic pursuits including financial, health or family difficulties. These challenges make it difficult to continue their education without taking a break. We listen and we respect their choices but we tell them that taking a break isn’t always the right answer and there are options available to support them.

The reality is, taking a break can make it more difficult to finish a degree. Research shows that there is a direct parallel to the number of credits a student completes to both student retention and graduation rates. For example, both full- and part-time students who have completed 30 or more credits are about 15% more likely to be successful in continuing on with their program of study, earn their degree or certificate, and achieve their goals.

Without a doubt, learning online from home at a kitchen table or bedroom takes a lot of discipline. But statistics and experience show it is well worth the effort. We hope students can look at this moment in time as a challenge they can overcome and reach out for help when they need it. They have options and we are here to provide them. Like our students, we are learning and adapting and implementing innovative new technologies. And, we are doing everything we can to ensure we have our students’ backs to help them be successful now and for their future.

Peter J. Provenzano Jr., Oakland Community College chancellor