NEIU students in need of academic resources are asking their professors and advisors to provide them with computers and other technologies during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an Associated Press analysis of census data, approximately 17% of students in the United States lack access to computers at home. As universities nationwide transition to remote instruction, academic leadership is tasked with providing nearly one in five students resources required to complete online coursework.
NEIU student Crystal Bruce said she used to make daily visits to NEIU’s Ronald Williams Library before the library temporarily closed amid growing concern surrounding COVID-19. Bruce, who majors in interdisciplinary studies, found herself unable to complete school assignments because she did not have access to a computer at home, prompting her to seek assistance from NEIU advisor Erin Long.
Long, who also serves as enrollment coordinator at Trio Student Support Service, contacted Student Affairs about Bruce’s situation. Two days later, a computer arrived at Bruce’s home.
“The school has stepped up and delivered me a computer because I am one of the students who use the library for computers,” said Bruce. “I do not have access to a computer at home.”
In order to request a computer, students must reach out to their professor, advisor or department chair. Once a faculty member receives a student’s request, the professor or advisor will notify the department chair, who selects students with the “greatest needs.” The nominated student can borrow a laptop from the department.
The College of Arts and Sciences, Student Affairs and El Centro receive the department chair’s recommendation before providing the selected student a time and location to retrieve the equipment.
However, departments at NEIU encounter challenges when lending technology to students. Some departments lack the resources or employees to deliver what has become a depleted reserve of school-purchased laptops.
“Departments are finding creative ways to help students,” said Dr. Shayne Pepper, CMT Department Chair. “The CMT department created a program to loan some personal laptops and tablets to students, and we purchased some additional Chromebooks that are available to CMT students in need.”
At NEIU’s El Centro campus, computers utilized for classes will be repurposed for students to complete the spring semester.
“There is a need for our student population, so we need to help our students right now,” said Maria Luna-Duarte, Interim Director of El Centro.
Administrative Assistant of the College of Arts and Sciences Mary Vyrne, who is coordinating the laptop loan program, believes that providing students with temporary laptops is not enough. According to Vyrne, some students remain unable to complete assignments due to insufficient internet access.
“Some students [at NEIU] do not have Wi-Fi or computers available to them at home to do their homework,” said Vyrne.
When the College of Arts and Sciences started the program, there were 20 laptops donated to the department that could be sent out to students. The computer loan service is a new program that started because of the need for virtual engagement. And students who received a computer still have to return computers by a set date.
Bruce said she has to return her computer by the end of May, but her health condition prevents her from visiting campus. Her friend will be returning the device.
“I have sclerosis. The medication I’m on lowered my immune system, and I can not be around [people] because of [COVID-19],” said Bruce.
The last day to request a computer is May 15. If you need a computer, contact your advisor, professor or department chair. For free internet access, visit here to view a list of internet providers offering free Wi-Fi services.