The Challenges of Coping with Chronic Illness while in Higher Education

College classes and living on one’s own for the first time is stressful. Imagine having to cope with a chronic illness at the same time.

In a recent article published in Cognoscenti, Laurie Edwards goes over the challenges that face college students suffering from chronic illness in today’s tertiary education system. While services for students with accommodations for students with visible disabilities are becoming increasingly available, chronic illnesses like Crohn’s Disease and Lupus are often invisible and little understood by the general public. Suffers of chronic illness, who are increasing, are often forced to miss long periods of class. Accommodating for this has been surprisingly difficult for many college campuses. The author writes:

How do we accommodate students who can’t make it to class for longer stretches, have frequent medical appointments or disruptive hospital stays, or whose medications may make them drowsy or fatigued even when they are present?

While many colleges have adapted so that students with learning disabilities are able to receive accommodations (such as extra time on a test) without explaining their particular condition directly to professors, this is often not the case for chronic illness. Without any system in place to accommodate students, they are forced to choose between their privacy and getting what they need. Even when students try to explain their situation, professors may be unyielding due to inadequate background with chronic illness. Often, students find themselves making up a month’s worth of work in a few days time when their illnesses take an unexpected turn. In the most dire situations, they may be forced withdraw in the middle of semesters when their illnesses take an unexpected turn, adding unnecessary financial stresses.

Evidently, colleges, including Boston University, must establish systems that allow students with chronic illnesses to be successful without adding extra stresses academically or financially.

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