No Home, No Wi-Fi: Pandemic Adds to Strain on Poor College Students

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Mr. Sawyer, who wants to become a pastor, is using his time off to work for civil rights organizations and to fund-raise so that he can re-enroll in the spring and obtain a doctorate in theology. “It’s definitely a delay, but sometimes stumbling blocks come,” he said.

Many students like Mr. Sawyer have been looking for alternative ways to pay for their education. As the coronavirus was closing campuses this past spring, Rise, a student-led organization that advocates college affordability, created an online network to help students find emergency financial aid, apply for public benefits and locate food pantries.

Rise has continued to serve more than 1,000 students a month who have struggled to pay rent, keep jobs and secure internet access, said Max Lubin, the organization’s chief executive. “We’re overwhelmed by the need,” he said.

Stable housing and healthy food were already major concerns before the pandemic. A 2019 survey found that 17 percent of college students had experienced homelessness in the past year, and about half reported issues such as difficulty paying rent or utilities. Nearly 40 percent lacked reliable access to nutritious food.

The coronavirus crisis worsened many of these challenges, according to a June report by the Hope Center, which found that nearly three out of five students surveyed had trouble affording basic needs during the pandemic.

Financial aid in the United States had already been stretched thin by the rising costs of tuition, room and board. At their maximum, need-based federal Pell grants cover 28 percent of the total cost of attending a public college today, compared with more than half of that cost in the 1980s. State aid, while recovering somewhat since the Great


Jeff Daniels adds ‘Comey Rule’ to ‘Newsroom,’ ‘Mockingbird’ resume

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Jeff Daniels calls playing Atticus Finch in the stage adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ the “role of a lifetime.” The Tony-nominee says the classic story still “slaps white America in the face.”  (May 29)

AP Entertainment

Fans often bring up Will McAvoy’s memorable Northwestern speech from “The Newsroom” when they encounter Jeff Daniels, who played the sharp, dyspeptic anchor in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama.

Filmmakers remember McAvoy and his scorching critique of American exceptionalism, too, which has led to a rich bounty of intriguing roles in recent years, including former FBI Director James Comey in Showtime’s miniseries “The Comey Rule” (Part 2, Monday, 9 EDT/PDT).

“The commonality that’s happened since ‘Newsroom’ is that I’m getting a lot more offers because of that. McAvoy, was a complicated guy, and that’s what I get now,” Daniels says.

Since “Newsroom” was canceled in 2014, those roles include risk-averse NASA Director Teddy Sanders in “The Martian” (2015); outlaw Frank Griffin in “Godless” (2017); FBI agent John O’Neill in “The Looming Tower” (2018);” and Atticus Finch in Sorkin’s 2018 Broadway adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Morality play: Jeff Daniels’ performance in ‘Comey Rule’ made James Comey feel ‘nauseous,’ and Daniels is OK with that

Jeff Daniels plays FBI Director James Comey in Showtime’s “The Comey Rule,” the latest in a run of intriguing roles for the longtime actor. (Photo: Ben Mark Holzberg, CBS Television Studios/Showtime)

The much-analyzed, much-criticized Comey – who led the controversial investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails and was fired by President Donald Trump after not pledging loyalty – fits the mold, Daniels says from his Michigan home. 

“Comey” writer-director Billy Ray understands why the actor is in demand. “It’s credibility. When he says something, you believe it. That is a hallmark of Jeff as a person. It comes out