Every year Hartnell College serves over 17,000 students; 85% are low income, 56% are first in their families to attend college. As we transition to online education, the digital divide is more evident than ever. Many of our students lack the laptops and access to the internet which are critical for online learning. Our most vulnerable students also need emergency funds for basic needs and access to crisis counseling. Without immediate support, this unprecedented transition to online learning may be too big of a hurdle for many of our students to surmount.
Hartnell College students have demonstrated an amazing commitment to pursuing education to better their lives and, by extension, their community. Known as the country’s “Salad Bowl”, the Salinas Valley is a rural, agricultural community spanning an area of 15 miles wide by 110 miles long, from Pajaro Valley to San Ardo and Bradley. Many students travel long distances to attend class, study under less than optimal circumstances, and face challenges that are not typical for “traditional” college students. Yet, because of our students’ determination, and the commitment of Hartnell College to serve as a beacon of higher education, Hartnell has twice been named a “Top 100 Producer in the U.S. of Associate Degrees for Minority Students” by Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
In mid-March, the risks of COVID-19 forced all students to transition entirely to online learning – a huge challenge for many of our students, less than 10% of whom have ever taken an online course prior to this transition. In fact, nearly 2,000 of our students don’t have personal access to a computer or a tablet. Many students do not have access to the internet in their place of residence. These students have always relied entirely on the computers and technology provided on our campus in order to succeed.
We applaud the monumental effort of our students, faculty, and staff in making this transition to online learning, but in this case, determination and commitment are not enough. Our students, and even some faculty, need immediate access to computers and internet hotspots in order to participate in online education while the campus is closed.
We urgently need your emergency support to keep our students enrolled, engaged, and working towards their academic goals, today, through the summer, and as long as it takes to return to classroom-based learning.
Hartnell College and the Foundation have already purchased 500 laptops for students in need. We need at least another 1,500 computers. We also need to provide hotspots and service for students who do not have internet access in their homes.
Many of our students are facing fear and financial insecurity, living with domestic violence, or working through other crisis situations exacerbated by this pandemic. To further support our students so that they can stay in school, we have expanded access to crisis counseling. Our Crisis Counseling Center, under the direction of Dr. Carol Kimbrough, is providing phone-based care and guidance for more students than ever before.
Our low-income students are currently struggling to feeding their families and pay for basic needs such as rent and utilities. We are creating a support fund for students facing extra financial hardships due to COVID-19 to help with online textbooks, food, housing expenses, diapers, or whatever basic needs they may be struggling with so that our students don’t have to choose between feeding their families, keeping the lights on or finishing their classes.
With your help, and their determination, and Hartnell’s commitment to our students’ success, we know we can rise up to meet this challenge and keep our students enrolled and working towards their educational goals.