Stu­dents de­mand tu­ition cuts as col­leges go on­line

More schools are scrap­ping de­ci­sions to fully re­open

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - NATION&WORLD - By Collin Binkley

As more uni­ver­si­ties aban­don plans to re­open and de­cide in­stead to keep classes on­line this fall, it’s lead­ing to con­flict be­tween stu­dents who say they de­serve tu­ition dis­counts and col­lege lead­ers who in­sist re­mote learn­ing is worth the full cost.

Dis­putes are flar­ing both at col­leges that an­nounced weeks ago they would stick with vir­tual in­struc­tion and at those that only re­cently lost hope of re­open­ing their cam­puses. Among the lat­est schools fac­ing pressure to lower tu­ition are Michi­gan State Univer­sity and New York’s Ithaca Col­lege, which scrapped plans to re­open af­ter see­ing other col­leges strug­gle to con­tain coro­n­avirus out­breaks.

The scourge has killed more than176,000peo­ple in the United States. World­wide, the con­firmed death toll crossed 801,000 on Satur­day, ac­cord­ing to a tally kept by John­sHop­kin­sUniver­sity. The num­ber of cases around the world topped 23 mil­lion.

In pe­ti­tions started at dozens of uni­ver­si­ties, stu­dents ar­gu­ing for re­duced tu­ition say on­line classes fail to de­liver the same ex­pe­ri­ence they get on cam­pus. Video lec­tures are stilted and awk­ward, they say, and there’s lit­tle con­nec­tion with pro­fes­sors or class­mates.

Many schools, how­ever, say they have im­proved on­line classes since the spring. Some have in­sti­tuted de­creases of 10% or more, but many are hold­ing firm on price.

At Michi­gan State, se­nior Tyler Weis­ner said the on­line classes he took last spring were less ef­fec­tive than what he gets on cam­pus. Weis­ner, who started a pe­ti­tion to re­duce tu­ition, said he’s also miss­ing out on many of the ben­e­fits of col­lege.

“You’re pay­ing that price tag be­cause col­leges bring stu­dents from all over the coun­try to­gether, to ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures,” he said. “Peo­ple don’t just choose strictly off ed­u­ca­tion or the pro­fes­sor.”

Sim­i­lar pe­ti­tions have been started at schools from Rut­gers Univer­sity in New Jersey to the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Plans to con­tinue vir­tual in­struc­tion this fall are fur­ther an­ger­ing many stu­dents who were frus­trated by the ex­pe­ri­ence of study­ing on­line last spring, when col­leges across the U. S. abruptly sent stu­dents home as the pan­demic in­ten­si­fied. In the wake of that, stu­dents at more than 100 col­leges filed law­suits de­mand­ing par­tial re­funds.

It also re­news a wider debate about the cost and value of a col­lege de­gree. Af­ter years of in­creases, many stu­dents said they could barely af­ford tu­ition be­fore the pan­demic. Now, as fam­i­lies aroundthe coun­try strug­gle, many say there’s a new need to rein in costs.

Some col­leges low­ered tu­ition as they moved classes on­line, ac­knowl­edg­ing fam­i­lies’ hard­ships and the dif­fer­ences in on­line classes. Sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties in Washington, D.C., low­ered prices by 10%, in­clud­ing Ge­orge­town Univer­sity. Prince­ton Univer­sity also cut tu­ition by 10%. InMas­sachusetts, Williams Col­lege an­nounced a 15% dis­count af­ter mov­ing to a mix of on­line and in- per­son classes.

Oth­ers, how­ever, have re­fused. Har­vardUniver­sity is charg­ing full tu­ition — about $50,000 per year — even though all un­der­grad­u­ate classes will be on­line this fall. The Ivy League school in­vited fresh­men to live on cam­pus while tak­ing classes on­line, but about 20% have de­ferred en­roll­ment, the univer­sity an­nounced.

The Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill halted in-per­son in­struc­tion last week af­ter 130 stu­dents tested pos­i­tive for the virus. The univer­sity is let­ting stu­dents can­cel their hous­ing con­tracts with­out penalty, and it’s re­im­burs­ing stu­dents for their meal plans, of­fi­cials said.

But stu­dents will still be on the hook for fees that aren’t likely to ben­e­fit them, in­clud­ing $279 for ath­let­ics, $400 for stu­dent health, more than $200 for cam­pus tran­sit and $160 for stu­dent union cen­ter op­er­a­tions.

At Michi­gan State, of­fi­cials said they have no plans to lower tu­ition. They said other schools are cut­ting costs by lean­ing on part­time fac­ulty. In­stead, Michi­gan State said it has in­vested in tech­nol­ogy and fac­ulty train­ing to im­prove re­mote in­struc­tion.

“Re­gard­less of the for­mat of in­struc­tion, MSUis de­liv­er­ing what stu­dents pay for: cour­ses taught by high qual­i­fied and world-class fac­ulty, tu­tor­ing ser­vices, of­fice hours, aca­demic ad­vis­ing and ac­cess to our li­braries,” spokes­woman Emily Guer­rant said.

At Ithaca, ju­niorMeghan Marzella said she un­der­stands that the pan­demic has been hard on schools and fam­i­lies alike. But she said there’s no rea­son stu­dents should pay fees for the fit­ness cen­ter and li­brary if they won’t be on cam­pus.

“Tu­ition cov­ers so much more than just classes,” said Marzella, who started a pe­ti­tion to re­duce prices. “The re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is we’re still pay­ing for things thatwe can’t ac­cess.”

JULIAWALL/THE NEWS & OB­SERVER

Dar­lene Ge­nan­der helps a stu­dent move out of her dor­mWed­nes­day at the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The col­lege halted in-per­son classes last week.

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