As COVID-19 cases started rapidly climbing in Maryland last month, nonessential businesses had to close their doors to allow for social distancing measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. The economic fallout from this shift is still being felt across the country, but for some, like MC student Abdulrezak Mohamed, the impact came quickly. He had been working as a valet attendant at a hotel and putting money from tips and sporadic Uber and Lyft gigs toward tuition.
“I was just overwhelmed with the situation at first,” Mohamed said. “I was working extra jobs just to pay for my tuition, so when this happened the money that I saved for summer classes was suddenly all gone because I had to pay my rent and other bills, and had no income coming in.” Mohamed is an asylee from Ethiopia, so he has no access to financial aid.
After MC classes transitioned to remote learning, he had not been very active in the online classes. One professor reached out to check in and, upon learning what Mohamed was dealing with, referred him to the College and to the Montgomery College Foundation to apply for student assistance.
“They were really helpful and understanding,” Mohamed said. “A few days later, they gave me a scholarship for my summer class,” He is currently a sophomore at MC working toward an information systems degree. Through the scholarship, he can continue his academic plan of transferring to the University of Maryland Baltimore County or to the University of Maryland, his top choices.
“I was never aware of this foundation and that it [and the College] helped students like this, but once my professor told me about it, I was really excited,” Mohamed said.
The number of student requests since the crisis started went above 1,000 by early April, according to Donna Pina, director of foundation finance, and Joyce Matthews, the College’s vice president of development and alumni relations and executive director of the Montgomery College Foundation.
Most students who go through a community college are really struggling financially, so being there for the students and helping them succeed is one of the biggest achievements that a college can do
“Students are asking for everything. You’re working and then, all of a sudden, you’re not. You need food, money for rent, money for everything,” Pina said. “Our focus was getting them the computers first because we want them to continue their education, but then we have been sending out a lot of gift cards.”
The College and the foundation prioritized getting computers to those who needed them for a couple reasons, Matthews said: the primary reason was to avoid any academic disadvantage—”the coursework is all online, and if you don’t have a computer, that’s significant.”
As the technology requests are handled, the College and the foundation expect general needs to increase, especially as the economic impact continues. “We have been linking students to other services and resources in the county, and our community at large is stepping up,” Matthews said. “We’ve had board members, faculty and staff giving money to an emergency support fund, so the money is still coming in.”
- MC and Its Foundation Are Helping Students with Tuition, Books and Laptops During the COVID-19 Crisis
Support from the community has meant a lot to students like Mohamed. Even before the crisis, he felt supported by his professors and by College staff. “It’s a really nice community to be part of. At MC, they are trying to help you succeed no matter what,” he said. “Most students who go through a community college are really struggling financially, so being there for the students and helping them succeed is one of the biggest achievements that a college can do.”