The outbreak of coronavirus has become a major disruption to universities, both public and private ones, countrywide. The pandemic threatens to significantly alter nearly every aspect of university life. The forced migration from in-person learning to online learning is not only straining varsities’ strategies and technological capabilities, it is also deepening the digital divide between students who have access to internet and devices at home and those who rely on campus resources. The digital divide describes the gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, but internet access is not the whole issue. There are extra repercussions for students who depended on part-time jobs or private supplementary tutoring for their livelihood and resources. Non-residential students are left particularly vulnerable as they have to struggle to afford their living cost besides facing other challenges. The loss of income puts pressure on what is often their biggest bill, the monthly rent.
According to a latest report of the University Grants Commission, only 31 per cent students of public universities get residential facilities. For lack of accommodation facilities, 69 per cent of them are compelled to live in messes or rented houses. But, because of loss of income, many of these students are unable to pay rents to their landlords but now they are often asked to pay rents immediately, or to leave the houses. Some feel that the non-residential students seeing their income drop should be given adequate support. According to a suggestion of JnU vice-chancellor, the administration should issue a special announcement so that the house owners do not misbehave with the students for the rents amid the pandemic. He opined for allocation of incentives for poor students. A UGC member proposed for identifying the students who face problems. His advice is that helps should be given by the respective universities from their welfare funds. From the humanitarian perspective, students struggling to pay their rent owing to the impact of coronavirus must be dealt with ‘sympathetically.’