An older college student with kids at home says remote learning is not possible for her as she navigates this dangerous and demanding new world of loss and lines. 

Opinion: ‘Normal education during these extraordinary times is not plausible.’

Ambra Hunter is a nontraditional college student in Georgia. Older with children and increased family pressures as a result of the pandemic, Hunter says she has no time for remote learning and believes colleges should suspend classes. 

“I take my responsibilities as a student seriously. But I take my responsibilities to my family even more seriously. In the midst of this crisis, I don't have time to be a remote student,” says Hunter, who is 37 and an English major in her junior year. 

She wrote this letter to the University System of Georgia to share her situation, a situation she says other students are facing, too. 

Nontraditional students include people who are older, working full-time jobs or raising families. They represent a large segment of the undergraduate population; 35% to 40% of undergraduates are 25 and older.

Dear Educators,

I know faculty, staff, and officials have made heroic efforts to provide for the safety and education of thousands of students statewide. I can't think of any precedent for the adaptations that have had to be made or the difficulty in weighing competing risks.

I appreciate everything that has been done on behalf of me and my peers. The University System of Georgia is doing everything in its power to normalize the situation.

This is not a normal situation, though. There is not a single facet of our lives that hasn't been turned inside out. This applies to students and educators alike. We are in uncharted waters trying to make our way. Expecting students or faculty to be able to carry on a normal education during these extraordinary times is not plausible.  

Ambra Hunter

I'm a non-traditional student who struggling to balance the demands of academia with my adult responsibilities, but I'm an avid learner. In the short time I've been at Georgia College & State University, I've impressed students and professors alike with my dedication. 

I take my responsibilities as a student seriously. But I take my responsibilities to my family even more seriously. In the midst of this crisis, I don't have time to be a remote student.  

On March 16, I made a 580 mile roundtrip to pick up my oldest son so he could move back in with me. In the days since, my 11- and 13-year-olds have had their school indefinitely postponed. My husband and son got laid off from work because of COVID-19. 

My dishwasher broke, which caused my sink to backflow. I had to fix it. Plumbers had been working on my broken tub, but left the job half done and haven't contacted me since so I had to fix that, too. 

Today, my car got a flat on the way to get groceries. Grocery shopping itself is abnormal. I'm trying to plan weeks’ worth of meals for three times a day while dealing with shortages and long lines. I'm trying to keep my kids occupied and educated, while navigating food stamps and unemployment. I literally don't have time to dedicate three to six hours a day to schoolwork.  

While most students don't have large families to juggle, they, too, face inordinate challenges. They've had to find new housing and move in a matter of days. They've lost jobs and have huge unplanned expenses. 

Not everyone has access to high-speed internet or a quiet place to work. Even more frightening, some of us are going to catch COVID-19. Some of us already have. Our families and friends are going to fall ill. Some will die. 

How can I focus on school when I'm waiting for my high-risk family members in hard-hit areas to be next? It is unrealistic to expect us to handle the stress of COVID-19 challenges and maintain our GPAs 

I'm calling on educational and government officials to temporarily suspend classes, not just in person but online. While it's a huge hit to our educational trajectory, judging our ability to focus and produce under such constraints will also irrevocably damage our educational careers. 

I wish I had time to make a more eloquent plea, time to cite news reports on students who are struggling to make ends meet, time to come up with a solution. 

But I don't. I'm exhausted. I don't know how I'm supposed to write papers when I don't even have time to write this. 

Please. Don't add to our burdens by expecting us to continue our education as if everything were normal.  

I pray everyone come out the other side of this with their health and families intact. 

 Sincerely,

Ambra Hunter

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
X