IN THE MIDST OF THE coronavirus pandemic that forced Jamaican universities and U.S. colleges to send students home and transition to online classes, students across the country are petitioning for COVID tuition refunds and discounts. Some have taken legal action, signed petition, while others are planning to simply not pay.
Put simply, “zoom university is not worth US$50k a year,” one student wrote on a petition calling on New York University to provide partial tuition refunds, referencing the popular videoconferencing tool. Another argued, “I didn’t pay to attend zoom.”
Students and parents around the country have voiced frustrations over what they perceive as subpar educational instruction, canceled classes and a loss of the opportunities and supports a college campus provides, like networking and access to labs and facilities.
At NYU, where the tuition and fees price tag is $53,308 for 2019-2020, more than 11,500 students have signed the petition as of publication. Students say they aren’t getting what they paid for from the coronavirus responses: They describe frustration with the limitations of Zoom and infrequent online classes; classes that were paid for but canceled without refunds; and classes missing critical elements like mock trials, art projects or clinical experience.
“The quality of education I am currently receiving from NYU Zoom classes aren’t nearly as productive and valuable as what the price of it shows,” Parag Sheth, an NYU junior, wrote in a comment on the petition. “A core value of NYU is to provide its students with a high level of education, and if this cannot be done in the light of the current health crisis, then charging for it seems unfair.”
Similar petitions garnering thousands of signatures are circulating among students at other colleges, such as the University of Texas—Arlington, George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Northwestern University in Illinois and Colorado State University.
Recent class-action lawsuits filed by students at the University of Miami and Drexel University in Philadelphia similarly argue online classes are not an equal substitute for the in-person college experience, and as such they are asking for a COVID Tuition refund of certain tuition and fees. They also argue that fees, like athletics and activities fees, should be reimbursed as those services could not be used during the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, most students’ petitions have not been successful in getting their colleges to give a tuition refund, and lawsuits asking for refunds for room and board, tuition or fees are pending.
“When I took a sample of about 100 colleges and looked for their policies concerning refunds, none of them were refunding tuition. They didn’t even speak to the situation where they had to cancel a class,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research for Savingforcollege.com. Instead, most colleges were only addressing refunds for room and board, parking and other fees.
In explaining its decision not to COVID refund tuition, Pennsylvania State University released a statement saying that in spite of the financial difficulties students and families may face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, “Unfortunately, we believe the cost of fulfilling our educational commitment in a remote setting is likely higher, and there are no plans to issue tuition refunds.”
Colleges Announce Tuition Freezes following Coronavirus impact
In lieu of a tuition refund, some students can expect a tuition freeze for the coming academic year. When tuition is frozen, families pay the same amount for the upcoming school year as they did for the current one.
Last week, a handful of colleges announced tuition freezes for the 2020-2021 school year, including public colleges and universities in Georgia, Michigan State University and the University of Chicago.
These freezes, while positive, don’t address the immediate financial needs of students, says Julia Attie, a senior at the University of Chicago. She’s organizing a strike encouraging students to collectively not pay the remaining tuition for the current quarter, due next week.
“They’re asking for thousands or even hundreds of dollars that students can’t afford,” Attie says. “There is an economic crisis right now due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we are asking for immediate relief. There are a lot of students who are not going to be able to pay, and the financial aid system is not equipped to handle emergencies.”
A petition from University of Chicago students, which asks for a 50% reduction of tuition and waiving of fees as well as a tuition freeze for the future, has more than 1,700 signatures as of publication.
COVID Tuition Discounts for Summer, Fall Classes
Students who decide to enroll in summer classes post the coronavirus pandemic, which will be held online at many colleges, may see discounts in tuition.
“In this difficult time, I know many students and families are facing health and financial challenges,” Sylvia M. Burwell, president of the university, wrote in a letter to students. “We are committed to supporting our AU community, and I am pleased to announce that undergraduate, graduate, and Washington College of Law (WCL) summer courses will be discounted by 10 percent this year. This discount will provide students with some financial relief and additional options for advancing their education.”
This discount would save AU students enrolled in two courses, a typical summer semester course load, about $1,000, according to the statement.
In the short term, the wealthiest colleges may offer a tuition freeze or even a discount for summer and fall classes this year because of the coronavirus impact, Kantrowitz says. But among public colleges, students can expect to see the cost of tuition go up as colleges compensate for declines in state funding and philanthropic donations.
“We’re going to have above-average public college tuition inflation,” Kantrowitz says. “It may not be this fall, it may be a year from now, but it’s going to happen.”
Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the ScholarshipJamaica.com Paying for College center.
Written by By Emma Kerr, Reporter via U.S.News