COVID-19 Makes College Fees Murkier

COVID-19 Makes College Fees Murkier

For college students, the subject of fees — and how to pay for them — is notoriously thorny. And now, the COVID-19 era is making things even more complicated, as different schools are taking different approaches.

For example, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island said it has reduced school fees by more than $600 for the fall semester. But numerous schools have said that fees will not change, except perhaps for student activities, Forbes magazine reported.

On the other hand, there’s the question of what students will be getting for their money. For example, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is not changing its tuition and fees, despite having all courses conducted remotely, per the report. Only a limited number of undergraduates will be living on campus during the academic year.

Among schools that are bringing students back to campus for in-person instruction, costs are ramping up to account for COVID-19 tests and stricter standards for cleaning and disinfecting.

For example, reports CNBC, Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts requires students taking in-person classes to be tested for COVID-19. New on the list of fees: a $950 "COVID-19 Mitigation Fee.”

However, it’s more difficult to discern the new fees at other schools, because they’ve been folded into the more standard charges, such as room and board.

CNBC said that fees charged to out-of-state students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will go up by nearly $500, along with a new $50 health and safety charge.

For their part, some college students have been pushing back, demanding lower tuition if classes are conducted online. In fact, students at the University of North Carolina have filed suit seeking tuition and fee refunds for the spring 2020 semester.

Meanwhile, for the schools themselves, there’s lots of uncertainty. Sharon Butler, executive vice president of global education at Flywire, told PYMNTS that one major question is: “What’s the student return rate going to be?”

Flywire serves as a payments platform for educational institutions and other clients. A Tuition Payments study done by PYMNTS and Flywire about a year ago showed that the 31.7 percent of students who work part-time said it was “somewhat” or “very” hard to pay for tuition — and that was before the COVID-19 economic crisis hit.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.