A Resource: Impacts of COVID-19 on First-generation Students Experienced Across Institutions of Higher Education

The Center / March 12, 2020

College Building

As institutions respond in haste to COVID-19, many are asking students to depart residence halls within hours and to begin online learning as alternative instruction, or are closing entirely. While a desire to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is understandable, this leaves many first-generation students, particularly those with an intersectional low-income identity, with difficult decisions to make. Many of these students may not have permanent residences to return to, may face transportation issues or food insecurity, and are concerned about not having income from campus or local employment. As higher education professionals, a few important questions to ask colleagues is a good place to begin:

  • What campus or local housing opportunities are available to first-generation (and all) students who do not have safe or habitable conditions with which to return?
  • Will dining halls, food pantries or other aids for food and housing insecurity be available to students during this time?
  • What emergency aid funds are available to students to cover the cost of return travel, relocation, etc.?
  • Will students still have work study or campus employment positions available during this time?
  • Will campus computer labs be open for students who are able to remain local? Will laptop loaner programs be expanded in light of required online learning?
  • With the shift to online learning how are institutions considering students’ access and opportunity to connect to the internet?
    • Additionally, how will institutions provide instructional and troubleshooting support to promote online learning?
    • If students do not have access to classrooms or on-campus libraries, will textbooks and other hardcopy resources become available online?
  • How will mental and physical health services be provided to students? Are mechanisms in place for virtual appointments?
  • Are there opportunities to keep critical mentoring relationships active in a virtual space or modified setting?
  • How can alumni networks be engaged to help students find internships or employment opportunities when back in their home communities?
  • How is all of this information being communicated to first-generation students and their families?
    • Is the messaging being created in multiple languages to support widespread communication?
  • If students do become ill and are not able to visit the campus-based health clinic, where should they go to seek healthcare?
    • Will the visit be covered by their student health insurance?
In response to the state of higher education, NASPA created a COVID-19 resource page which will continue to update as new resources become available.

A Message from NASPA President, Kevin Kruger

Included below are a series of articles and resources to supplement your institution’s efforts in supporting all students, with particular consideration for first-generation students.

Background Information

CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus): Frequently Asked Questions

Infection Prevention Do’s and Don’ts

WHO Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Technical Guidance

Impact Across Higher Education


Updated: At Least 130 Colleges Have Canceled In-Person Classes (So Far) Over Coronavirus Fears

Inside Higher Education

LIVE UPDATES: How Higher Education is Reacting to the New Coronavirus Pandemic

The Chronicle of Higher Education

When Coronavirus Closes Colleges, What Do Students Lose? For Some, Hot Meals, Health Care, and a Place to Sleep

Community College Daily

Coronavirus, community colleges and the equity gap


9 Things You Can Do Right Now to Support Students Through the COVID-19 Epidemic

ACHA Update on COVID-19

Building Community in Online Doctoral Classrooms: Instructor Practices that Support Community

Coronavirus Information - Multilingual

Federal Student Aid: Coronavirus Information

Going Online in a Hurry: What to Do and Where to Start

Guidance for interruptions of study related to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Remote Teaching Resources for Business Continuity

The University of Florida created a visual resource supporting first-gen students transitioning online!

UF Tips for Fgg Students


Accessibility for Differently Abled


Advising in Times of Disruption

Food and Housing Insecurity

ACUHO-I COVID-19 Resources

BEYOND THE FOOD PANTRY: Supporting #RealCollege Students During COVID19

College Students: U-Haul Offers 30 Days Free Self-Storage Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

How Two Colleges Are Fighting Food Insecurity on Campus

Internet Access

Staying Connected During the Coronavirus Situation

Mental Health

HEMHA College Counseling from a Distance: Deciding Whether and When to Engage in Telemental Health Services

Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty

Working from Home

How to Work from Home Without Losing your Sanity


As new resources become available, this blog will update to reflect them. If you would like to share any resources or approaches implemented at your institution to support first-generation students, please email the Center.