As more colleges stay online, students are demanding cuts in tuition fees
WASHINGTON: As more universities abandon their reopening plans and instead decide to keep classes online in the fall, conflict arises between students who say they deserve tuition discounts and university leaders who insist that distance learning be the full cost is worth.

There are arguments at both colleges that announced weeks ago that they would be sticking to virtual lessons and colleges that have recently lost hope of reopening their campus. Recent schools under pressure to cut tuition fees include Michigan State University and Ithaca College, which abandoned plans to reopen after other colleges struggled to contain coronavirus outbreaks.

The Scourge killed more than 175,000 people in the United States. Globally, the confirmed death toll passed 800,000 on Saturday, according to a record kept by Johns Hopkins University, and 23 million cases were passed.

In petitions filed at dozens of universities, students who advocate reduced tuition fees say online courses don’t deliver the same experiences they get on campus. Video lectures are said to be stilted and awkward, and there is little personal connection with professors or classmates.

However, many schools respond that they have improved online teaching since the spring. Some have introduced a drop of 10% or more, but many are sticking to the price.

In Michigan state, senior Tyler Weisner said the online courses he took last spring were less effective than what he received on campus. Weisner, who started a petition to reduce tuition fees, said he was also missing out on many of the college’s benefits.

“They’re paying this price because colleges bring together students from across the country to learn about different cultures,” he said. “People don’t just choose strictly by education or professor. They want a nice place to live and a new experience.”

Similar petitions have been filed in schools from Rutgers University in New Jersey to the University of Southern California. Plans to resume virtual classes this fall further anger many students who were disappointed with the online study experience last spring, when colleges in the US abruptly sent students home as the pandemic worsened.

As a result, students filed lawsuits at more than 100 universities, some of which sought reimbursements.

It also renews a wider debate about the cost and value of a college degree. After years of surge, many students said they could barely afford classes before the pandemic. Now that families across the country are struggling, many say there is a new need to contain costs.

Some colleges lowered tuition fees when they rescheduled classes online, often recognizing the difficulties faced by families and the differences in online classes. Several universities in Washington, DC, cut prices by 10%, including Georgetown University.

Princeton University also cut tuition fees by 10%. In Massachusetts, Williams College announced a 15% discount after switching to a mix of online and in-person courses. Others, however, refused. Harvard University charges full tuition fees of around $ 50,000 per year, though all elementary school classes will be online this fall. The Ivy League school invited freshmen to live on campus during online classes, but about 20% have postponed enrollment, the university said.

Many colleges had hoped to bring the students back with major changes. But after outbreaks at many of the early sites that reopened – often combined with off-campus parties – some are pulling back on their plans.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shut down face-to-face classes last week after 130 students tested positive for the virus. The university is letting students cancel their housing contracts with no penalty and reimbursing students for their meal plans, officials said.

But students will still have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees that are unlikely to benefit them, including $ 279 for athletics, $ 400 for student health, more than $ 200 for campus transit and $ 160 for running student associations.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said Mackenzie Holland, a newcomer who left the UNC on Tuesday. “All of these funds go into things that are specific to campus, and I can’t use any of those things.” In Michigan state officials said they had no plans to cut tuition fees.

They said other schools cut costs by relying on part-time faculties or student assistants. Instead, the state of Michigan said it invested in technology and faculty training to improve distance learning.

“Regardless of the format of the course, MSU offers what students pay for: courses taught by highly qualified and world-class faculties, tutoring, consultation hours, academic advice and access to our libraries,” said spokeswoman Emily Guerrant.

Michigan state said the decision to keep classes online would cost the school millions in lost housing income. Ithaca College, which is not cutting tuition fees, said it is also taking a financial blow by telling students to stay home this fall.

“Room and board are a significant part of our annual revenue, but this decision was really made with our student health and safety first,” said Laurie Koehler, vice president of marketing and enrollment strategy at Ithaca.


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