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Higher Education Roundup: Services for Students Being Uprooted by COVID-19

March 20, 2020, @ 11:58 AM

As colleges across the country shift to an online and remote instruction model, many students and their families are facing challenges to adjusting to this new method of learning. Maintaining access for students during this time can prove challenging, but several companies continue to step forward to offer free or discounted services. See below for our latest roundup of these offerings, and send any additional ones to info@lvaic.org to keep the list growing.

U-Haul is Offering 30 Days Free Self-Storage

According to a press release from the company, “U-Haul will extend 30 days of free self-storage at U-Haul-owned and -operated facilities to help college students impacted by unforeseen schedule changes at their universities.” In the statement, the company explains that this includes services from U-Box, which are 257 cubic feet of space and one-ton capacity containers. See the U-Haul website for more details.

Enterprise is Reducing the Minimum Age and Waiving Young Renter Fees for Rentals

Recognizing students must evacuate campus quickly, Enterprise is offering college student travel assistance through May 31, 2020. The requirements for taking advantage of this offer include needing a valid student ID, being between 18-24 years of age, and utilizing a US location. Further details are available on the Enterprise website.

Comcast is Opening Xfinity WiFi Network Nationally and Offering Unlimited Data for Free

This initiative includes offering free Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country and pausing all data plans. The company is going even further by eliminating late fees and offering their Internet Essentials plan for free to new customers for the first 60 days. The company also announced its efforts to ensure added support during this time to ensure the networks remain online and functional. Additional details are available on the Comcast website.

Mobile Carriers are Offering Bill Forgiveness and Temporary Unlimited Data

National carriers, including AT&T and T-Mobile are offering both bill forgiveness and temporary unlimited data for all customers. Additional steps from AT&T include offering open hotspots, suspending broadband usage caps, and pausing service termination. More details are shared on the AT&T website. T-Mobile is offering unlimited data for 60 days, extending limited hotspots, offering additional international services, and creating bill payment arrangement. More details are shared on the T-Mobile website. Verizon is waiving late fees for 60 days and suspending customer termination, offering free international calling, and waiving activation fees. Verizon has additional resources available on its website. Charter Communications is offering free access to Spectrum Broadband and Wi-Fi for 60 days. Details are available on the Charter website. Similarly, Sprint is offering unlimited data for existing customers and hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge with details on the Sprint website.

Internet Essentials Provides Low-Cost Computers and Laptops

Internet Essentials, the low-cost internet package available for low-income families through Comcast, already offers discounted laptops and desktop computers. Once you are an Internet Essentials customer, you have the option to purchase one. The steps include completing a brief online application and then placing the order online or over the phone. Specifics regarding how to take advantage of this program are available on the Internet Essentials website.

VitalSource is Offering Free Access to Textbooks from Major Publishers

VitalSource is a company that offers Bookshelf. In light of COVID-19, Bookshelf is offering access to an expansive, curated catalog of etexts from participating publishers, available through May 25, 2020.  Publishers include Wiley, Cengage, Pearson, Macmillan, and McGraw-Hill. Students and faculty can both take advantage of this offering by creating an account on the Bookshelf website.

Cisco Webex is Boosting the Capabilities of the Free Videoconferencing Software

The additional features in the free version of Webex include unlimited usage (no time restrictions), support for up to 100 participants, and toll dial-in (in addition to existing VoIP capabilities). Additional details are available on the Cisco website.

SafeLink Wireless Offers Low-Cost Mobile Phone Services

SafeLink is a mobile phone service provider for individuals enrolled in government support programs, such as Medicaid and food stamp programs. The actual network depends on the region in which the individual lives. All services are provided on a no-contract basis through TracFone Wireless, Inc. More information, including checking availability and submitting the proper application documentation, is available on the SafeLink website.

As companies recognize the urgency for remaining flexible during these uncertain times, surely others will adjust their offerings and extend discounts. While many have been suddenly uprooted and are learning how to change work processes and learn with the new remote model, we will continue to curate ways to ease the transition. Check this page regularly for updates.

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