Coronavirus

College Students Seek Lower Fall Tuition As Schools Plan To Stick With Digital Classes

Some college students are demanding lower tuition for the coming academic year because many schools are moving toward partial or complete online instruction instead of in-person classes due to the pandemic.

Students at schools from coast to coast — from the University of Houston to Rutgers to The University of Chicago and more — are reportedly seeking tuition discounts, and some are even suing their schools for refunds to cover the spring semester.

For instance, students at the University of North Carolina system have filed suit seeking tuition and fee refunds for spring because schools switched to online classes. Pupils at New York City's Pratt Institute have done the same.

“The online learning options being offered to Pratt students are subpar in practically every aspect, from the lack of facilities, materials and access to faculty,” the students’ lawsuit claims.

The demands come even as many universities and colleges are reportedly losing money because of the pandemic. Schools generally are against giving discounts because they see digital courses as close enough to in-person classes.

Students, however, have a different point of view. One college junior at the University of California San Diego told The San Diego Union-Tribune that online classes feel “like watching a YouTube video — and that’s when professors are being responsible. The lazy ones just make us watch recordings from years before.”

A senior at the same school said that without in-person instruction, “you miss out on important body language that can cue understanding or misunderstanding. Online classes focus more on just learning the material, whereas in-person classes provide the environment for engagement.”

Some institutions do plan to reduce the cost of attendance. For example, The College of New Jersey this week announced that while it’s “keeping tuition flat,” it will cut overall student costs by 3.5 percent for in-state undergraduates and 2.5 percent for out-of-state ones. The school is doing so by cutting fees for card service, student activities and use of the campus student center.

But with many schools keeping tuition unchanged, some students say they wonder if they want to go back to college for the upcoming semester at all.

“I do want to return to school, but the likelihood of that is teetering right now,” one Texas A&M-College Station student told the The Texas Tribune. “I want the best education possible, and I really don't think that I can get that online. I can't get that from a screen.”

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