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Sam Island for Money

Sarah Wiener was at water polo practice when she heard that her college, Tufts University, would be shutting down for the rest of the semester. It was mid-March, and she remembers that she and her fellow students thought the coronavirus “was going to be an issue [on campus] the way fossil fuel divestment is an issue.”

That's to say, something to be aware of, but not necessarily something they would have to think about every day.

In a way, she ended up being half right: Students may have initially thought the pandemic would only shut down their schools for a couple of weeks, but it has turned into an ongoing crisis that has forced us all to rethink many aspects of our lives.

College students, who are now beginning their fall semesters, are hardly immune to that. And Wiener’s experience will sound familiar to most undergrads this year, who have struggled with the sudden loss of not only their in-person classes, but also the many activities that are a fundamental part of the college experience: weekly club meetings that allow likeminded students to find each other, and large-scale events meant to foster school spirit, like athletic competitions and charity drives. With most of these going virtual, frustrated students — and their parents — are now asking why they’re paying full tuition for an experience that seems so diminished.