By Josie Jack
For The Diamondback

As the spring semester comes to an end at the University of Maryland, some students reflect on the toll online classes had on their mental health and education — and how much money they’re paying for it.

With only about 25 percent of this university’s classes being taught in person during the spring semester, many students have now been taking online classes for over a year. These online classes have impacted students’ mental health and caused educational struggles, and some students said these issues are on top of having the burden of full tuition.

“It’s still just as expensive, but not as great of a quality of education and certainly with much less resources than they would give us in person,” said Julia Bischoff, a sophomore journalism and environmental science major. 

Bischoff described her experiences with online classes, saying there is a lack of interaction with her professors now that her classes are online. She also said she feels as though she largely taught herself in her asynchronous online classes.

“Last semester, I took a geography class, and people said that they loved that professor so much … but I literally only saw him, like, two or three times when he sent videos out to the class,” Bischoff said. “I feel like I really missed out on a good professor.”

[‘Not what I expected’: UMD seniors reflect on a final college year dominated by COVID-19]

Sophia Kotschoubey, a freshman environmental science and policy major, said missing out on the in-person college experience has taken a toll on her mental health and motivation to attend classes.

“I definitely have struggled with staying sane,” Kotschoubey said. “It’s harder to make friends … It’s hard to stay motivated.”

Additionally, junior a physiology and neurobiology and psychology major Kuhoo Bhal emphasized the struggles of doing online school from her dorm room.

“Being online and sitting at your desk for eight to 10 hours a day gets really unhealthy,” Bhal said.

According to a survey conducted in the fall by this university, 82 percent of undergraduate students said the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health. Seventy-nine percent of undergraduate students said their fall 2020 academic experience was worse than their fall 2019 experience.

Along with the struggles of online learning, some students have also cited financial struggles. The university did not decrease tuition for the fall or spring semester, citing the funds are necessary to operations and students are still getting a high-quality education.

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Though she has not been financially affected by the pandemic, Bhal knows friends that have. One of her friends took on three jobs while attending school in order to pay for her education. 

“It was crazy. She never slept,” Bhal said. “If people didn’t have to worry about having to fund their education or having to pay off loans, I think that would be a big step in increasing the wellbeing of [students].” 

Dawit Lemma, a director in the Office of Student Financial Aid, provided a statement explaining this university “has distributed more than $16 million in grants to eligible students to assist with their cost of attendance” since April 2020 and “is currently receiving and reviewing UMD Student COVID Relief Grant applications.”

Lemma encouraged students to contact the Office of Student Financial Aid for more assistance. 

Bhal, Bischoff and Kotschoubey said they believe more financial aid would help student wellbeing — both financially and mentally. 

“Reducing that stressor could definitely be beneficial for a lot of people’s mental health … a lot of families’ mental health, not just students,” Bischoff said.

CORRECTION: Due to a  reporting error, a previous version of this story misstated Kuhoo Bhal’s major. She is a physiology and neurobiology and psychology  major, not a neurophysics and psychology major. This story has been updated.