Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, colleges and universities have been forced to alter not only their modes of instruction, but also their general business and funding practices. Because the pandemic has had negative financial effects globally, where the financial burden should lie remains a topic of debate.
After releasing the fall 2020 instruction plan, IU announced tuition would remain the same regardless of the mode of instruction, in person or online. However, if students are enrolled in entirely online classes and are not located in Bloomington, they can petition to receive a discount on mandatory fees, according to Student Central. This petition expires Sunday.
These mandatory fees include access to the Student Recreational Sports Center and campus buses broadly, but also lab or classroom fees depending on the classes students are enrolled in. Students do not need to petition the university for fee refunds from those classes, and they are refunded through the bursar should classroom mode of instruction change or special permission be granted to attend the class remotely.
Some students have questioned university policy allowing full tuition rates to continue, but many administration staff and faculty argue regardless of the cost of attendance, students still have financial aid options.
Ron McFall is the director of the office of scholarships at IU. He said although he’s heard some feedback from parents and students regarding tuition refunds for all-online classes, he’s heard more about potential scholarship options going forward.
“We understand that tuition rates are set by the institution, and the modalities of the courses are set independently of our decision, so we hear some of that,” he said. “I think we’ve heard more cases around personal hardship and family financial struggles than sort of outright demands for tuition reduction or more scholarships.”
Some students also said because universities owe duties to staff and faculty as well as students, lowering the cost of tuition is not always possible.
Sylvie Martin-Eberhardt is an IU senior and is currently taking all-online classes from Valparaiso, Indiana. She said because her mother is a professor at Valparaiso University, she understands how hard faculty work and how important it is they keep their positions, even if that means maintaining tuition rates.
“I can definitely see the argument of building fees and lab fees being refunded because we aren’t using those facilities, or not as many students are, but I also really was proud of the fact that my university was able to continue to pay everyone in the spring at least,” she said.
Martin-Eberhardt said although helping students in need should be a top priority for universities, the money should not necessarily come from within but rather the federal government.
“I appreciate their applications for emergency aid, but I know there’s a lot more to it than just being able to be housed and fed, and so I really feel like the universities are not the problem right now,” she said. “There’s plenty of anger to go around and there’s plenty of frustration for need, and so I really feel like that energy should be put towards organizing the government helping out more.”
Other students feel tuition should be based on how many online classes you have and whether you’re in Bloomington getting the full college experience.
Zac Monroe is an IU senior taking classes entirely online. He said although his Cox Research Scholarship pays his cost of attendance, if he was not on scholarship, he would be more motivated to push for lower tuition rates.
“I think that tuition should be adjusted based on how many strictly web-based classes you have,” he said. “You’re still getting an education from trained professionals more or less on the subjects that you’re taking courses about, but you’re not getting the full immersive experience.”
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