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March 19, 2020
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Student Voice: The Financial Side Effects of COVID-19 Outbreak on College Students

The past week felt like a year, with the coronavirus provoking a temporary state of anxiety and uncertainty on our nation and world. It’s difficult not to become consumed in the seemingly apocalyptic trajectory of this virus. With people panic buying months worth of toilet paper, wiping grocery store shelves clean, and universities closing, nothing feels normal. 

One frustrating symptom of the pandemic is the lack of preparedness and communication from certain universities and colleges. While it is understandable that these institutions did not foresee the virus spreading at such rapid rates, the welfare of college students was not central to a lot of the decisions made on their part. 

At Northeastern University, college students were alerted that online classes would begin in the following weeks and that campus departure is welcome but not obligatory. Two days later all college students were notified that campus would close in three days and everyone needed to move out. Flights had to be moved, people had to fly back to campus after spring break earlier than planned, housing had to be arranged, sublets needed to postponed or advertised, visas needed to be revisited or altered, etc. On top of all of this, a national crisis is unfolding and few know what the next days hold in terms of accessibility to travel or housing or food. 

Coming out of this turmoil, college students were and still are emotionally and financially drained, stressed, and skeptical of their institution’s reliability. Friends of mine were spending money on storage units and transportation that were saved for emergencies or relying heavily on parental assistance. Others did not have that luxury and had to part with certain belongings to be authorized to fly. 

In a word, it is a mess. Those with money are using it to stabilize their lives and remain as organized as possible in the chaos while others are blindsided financially. If you find yourself in either of these categories or somewhere in between, it’s time to get creative. 

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At Quatromoney, we love to hear from real students and parents about their experiences with college costs, banking, savings, and their financial lives.  If you are a high school senior, college student, and parent of one who are interested in writing about these topics, consider writing for our Quatromoney Good Math Blog.  Why do it?  We offer a little compensation for each approved blog post - plus you can add a published link (or more) to your resume. Interested?  Just send an email to with a writing sample.  We will be in touch.

My friend Lilah lives four hours from campus and was able to quickly stuff her belongings into a friend’s car and pay for gas. Perfect! But her roommate Natalie lives across the country and is not financially permitted to invest in a storage unit. So the little gaps and spaces in Lilah’s car were filled with Natalie’s lamp, bedding, and shoes. Natalie used the money saved from the storage unit on a plane ticket instead of a 6-day bus ride, and Lilah drove home with no regret. 

There are so many stories like this on campuses across the country; college students recognizing that what looks like bumps to them are mountains for others. Using the money that privileges afforded you to help others, even in the smallest, logistical ways, is the best way to use it right now. 

Photograph of Genevieve McCloy
Genevieve McCloy

Genevieve McCloy is from San Francisco and a current junior at Northeastern University. She is pursuing a major in Political Science, Philosophy, and Economics and a minor in Women's Studies.

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