What Are Your Rights? The Impact of COVID-19 on Students

Man: The following segment is sponsored by Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: Coronavirus is causing closures of sporting venues, public gatherings and as of yesterday, the entire country of Italy. Locally, we’re starting to see quarantines, shortages of disinfecting products and most recently, schools and colleges canceling classes or even entire semesters. Here to help examine how the coronavirus will affect students and their path to obtaining their degree is Managing Partner Paul Harding, from the law firm of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. Paul, welcome.

Paul: Thank you.

Interviewer: Thanks for being here. So, a lot to talk about, a lot of new developments with coronavirus. There are a number of laws at the state and federal level as well as SUNY policies with regard to coursework. So, we’re talking accreditation, the issuance of diplomas, degrees. Can you tell us a little bit about how that and coronavirus could kind of create some issues?

Paul: Yeah, they are just kind of bundling together, create lots of issues. Highly regulated industry, we don’t think about it that way with education. You get your degree. So, the question really is, could this coronavirus and the cancellations of things affects these students’ futures? Yes, you have these student loans, right? Hey, you got to attend a certain number of classes or you got to pay it back immediately. You may be off to law school or med school or grad school, but if you don’t graduate on time, you’re going to miss a whole semester. So, can this affect the students’ future? Answer, unfortunately, is yes.

Interviewer: Okay. Well, the SUNY school system has provided a number of updates regarding coronavirus, but it seems that school closures and cancellations of classes or even semesters is almost inevitable at this point, right?

Paul: Sure.

Interviewer: So, what is SUNY doing to kind of address this issue and still ensure that students are able to complete their course?

Paul: So, now we’re online, we’re going to go online, we’re going to have virtual classrooms. Are they ready for it? They talk like they’re ready. They’ve got it in the bag.’ And I hope they are because having a few students do it, and most institutions have less than 1% or 2% of the population taking full course loads online. So, could 100% do it? We’ll see. But that’s what they’re doing and that could save the day. Or maybe we’re just going to see a retraction of the coronavirus and get kids back in the classroom.

Interviewer: Okay, last but not least, a lot of people studying abroad. I know parents are worried about the students who are looking forward to their opportunities to do so.

Paul: Yes.

Interviewer: How does this affect them?

Paul: Yeah, you hear students talk, it’s their best experience in college when I went abroad. It’s going to affect them a lot. They’re going to be canceled. There’s already canceled some, they’ve called students back. Some students are there, they don’t want to come back and they’re told to come back. So, they’re going to have to figure that out. I just think at the end of the day, they just did it at the wrong time in history, and they’re not going to get that experience back unless they delay their graduation. And that’s expensive.

Interviewer: Absolutely. All right. Paul, thank you so much for answering our questions.

Paul: You’re welcome.

Interviewer: Of course, if you’re just joining us and you have more questions or you’d like additional information, head on over to our website, cbs6albany.com.