Poorer college students need more support post-pandemic
COVID-19 has increased the financial pressure on students from disadvantaged backgrounds, with more than 90% poorer now than before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile, the education of students in financial hardship - those with half the national average household income - also suffered more during lockdowns and social distancing, according to new research from the non-profit VietSeeds Foundation and YouGov Vietnam.
Just under one-third of students in financial hardship saw a fall in their incomes during the pandemic, with 32% losing the part-time jobs which supported their living costs at college. Meanwhile, over a third (36%) of poor students saw financial support from their families disappear as a result of the virus.
These students have felt a greater economic impact from the pandemic compared to their more advantaged peers. Less than a quarter (23%) of students not in financial hardship lost their part-time jobs, while around the same proportion (27%) lost support from their families. More advantaged students have also seen their incomes bounce back, with around one-in-five (19%) now earning the same as before the pandemic struck.
Meanwhile, poorer students were at significant risk of unexpected expenses during the pandemic. In total, 80% of these students had to cover surprise costs at least once, with more than one-fifth (21%) having to do so three to four times and 6% on more than five occasions. When faced with these out-of-the-blue expenses, more than three-quarters (77%) went first to their families for financial assistance. On the other hand, less than one-in-ten students (9%) first sought support from their universities, with 20% doing so as a last resort.
Students in financial hardship also found it more difficult to complete their studies. Following lockdowns and social distancing, teaching moved from the classroom to online. Most students returned home to live with their parents to save on the cost of renting. However, poorer students were likelier to have slow internet speeds (66%), a lack of private space (50%), no internet connection (21%), and no laptop (21%) compared to those whose families had more financial resources.
Commenting on the research, Ms Cat Tuong Huyen, Co-Founder Managing Director of VietSeeds said:
“This data demonstrates the importance of providing more financial and practical support to disadvantaged students. Success at college should be about talent and hard work, not socio-economic status. If those in financial hardship are not given greater assistance, there is a real risk that poorer students will fall further behind their friends.
“The good news is that these issues can be overcome. First and foremost, banks and financial institutions could create a low-to-zero interest loan package for students. This would ensure a stable and predictable financial situation which, in turn, would enable them to focus on their studies. This scheme should then be promoted to students and their parents to ensure the greatest possible take-up.
“Meanwhile, disadvantaged students often struggle to afford the extracurricular activities - such as English lessons - which could give them a competitive edge in the job market after graduation. Therefore, we encourage English centers and app developers to work together so that poorer students can improve their language skills at home in their own time. Last, but not least, a part-time job bank advertising well-paid vacancies would give poorer students greater financial independence and help them to support themselves while at college.
“These simple steps would help to ensure that students in financial hardship are better able to unlock their full potential and graduate with the skills and knowledge to thrive in the post-pandemic labor market.”
Thue Quist Thomasen, CEO of YouGov Vietnam, added:
“Our data highlights the unique challenges that disadvantaged college students faced during COVID-19. Most universities are based in major cities. Therefore, those from small towns and rural areas - who might be less privileged to begin with - had a greater financial burden for costs like rent and transportation. Meanwhile, during lockdown, when students returned to their hometowns, issues like slower internet speeds made it more difficult for them to keep up with their studies.
“However, our data also shows the incredible resilience of students in financial hardship during the pandemic. Despite their higher-than-average financial challenges, poorer students reported the same levels of stress as their more privileged peers. This resilience should stand them in good stead when entering the world of work.”
VietSeeds is a non-profit organization committed to bringing equal access to college education for all students in Vietnam. Our graduates are the seeds who are breaking the cycle of poverty within their own families to change their lives, serving their communities, providing a new generation of active citizens and future leaders from diverse backgrounds, and fostering positive social changes.For more information visit https://www.vietseeds.org/en/sponsor/individual-sponsor