As many college students across the country travel for spring break vacations in March, others who remain on college campuses during the week off may face more challenging conditions. When campus facilities and services reduce their hours or shut down for the week, vulnerable students can experience gaps in vital resources—including health care, disability assistance, free or subsidized food, and transportation services, writes The Sun-Sentinel.
To shed light on the impact of spring break campus closures, The Sun-Sentinel interviewed students studying at South Florida universities located near popular vacation destinations.
Health care shortages
Alexa Davis-Payne, a University of Central Florida student who pays for her education with the help of a Pell Grant, two student loans, and a job, does not have health insurance. Davis-Payne says she typically relies on the UCF campus health center for affordable medical care, but “the health center on campus closes when the school closes, so if I run out of one of my prescribed medications, or if I get sick, I am not able to go to a regular doctor.”
Leah Turner, a graduate student and teaching assistant at the University of South Florida in Tampa who graduated from Florida Atlantic University’s (FAU) honors college, says that “spring break is always difficult,” recalling the limited service and food options during her breaks at FAU. “If you are in school and you have a dining plan as your main food source, and that food source is suddenly just gone for a week there isn’t really an easy recourse,” says Turner. “Eating out is expensive, not to mention the possible difficulty with even traveling somewhere to get food, particularly if you are someone with limited transportation.”
Turner says younger students with little experience in financial planning and budgeting tend to have the hardest time with food insecurity during breaks. “At the honors college, there weren’t even kitchens in the dorm rooms so you were really limited in even the food you could purchase to hold you over.”
Students like Madison Rodriguez at Florida International University in Miami, meanwhile, say spring break can be isolating without a chance to travel or visit family. Rodriguez works as a resident assistant on campus, in return for free housing and compensation for overtime and signing new residents. Without a car, Rodriguez would need to pay for a train ticket and Uber ride to reach her family’s home in Palm Beach County.
“Social media postings [from peers away on vacation] seem to amplify” these feelings of isolation, says Seth Fishman, the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and an assistant professor of education and counseling at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Fishman adds that some colleges are taking steps to offer students free or low-cost alternative spring break trips, often focused on community service. For some students, “this provides a viable form of engagement, and perhaps transformational experience,” he says.
Georgetown University’s Alternative Breaks Program brings together Georgetown community members in order to foster intersectional solidarity and inspire lasting commitments to service and social justice. The program, which offers scholarship opportunities, is inclusive and accessible to students of all backgrounds. Learn more on the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service website at csj.georgetown.edu.