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Tuition discounts are far and few between.
“Prior to Covid-19 the cost of tuition for online and in-person classes have always been the same, because it is still the same quality of education.” This was the response after I emailed an employee from the Azusa Pacific University Provost office asking for details about the lack of financial relief options.
Although this message was paired with sympathies and promises of prayers, it highlights a question most colleges and students are asking: Is it worth it to pay full tuition for remote learning?
Institutions have faced demanding timelines and choices — including staying economically stable while upkeeping an empty campus. Student Loan Hero claims that there are 44.7 million Americans with student debt from the rising costs of tuition. There is no perfect solution, but if students are going to have the weight of student debt, lower tuition costs should at least be considered.
Harvard is one example of a major university that is maintaining the full tuition rates. According to their website, they are offering other forms of financial relief. This includes paying for a “Covid-19 remote room” for students who want to live on campus. This tactic has been used by numerous universities, and feels like a rip off. Yes, the student gets to live on campus by themselves while receiving food at their room, but the experience does not live up to the cost of tuition at Harvard, costing 49,653 dollars a year.
On the other side, Southern New Hampshire University made the decision to offer full tuition scholarships for incoming freshmen. This decision can pave the way for other colleges. In prospect, there will be a temporary drop in funding from tuition, but this adds a strong chance that students will come back the next year, which creates more security.
The primary explanation from colleges who refuse to lower multiple costs is that online classes provide the same experience. However, the learning experience partially depends on the student and how involved they are. There are other factors that can inhibit learning, like various studies that have been exploring the learning efficiency of “Zoom University.”
One broad issue presented is that students that struggle in the classroom will most likely struggle even more online. The long-term effect is unknown, but there are environmental factors that directly impact a learning experience. How are all students supposed to perform on an even playing field when internet access and computers are not guaranteed? If a student is paying full tuition to struggle under the boundaries of a screen, then the full potential of classes are not reached.
Institutions also argue that the online format provides more opportunities. Students don’t have to physically be present on campus which is technically creating more free time. This is because of the lack of commuting and the absence of having to go from class to class. Even though more free time sounds like a dream, the reality is that online classes still take up a large part of the day.
Although professors and university staff have been working hard to create a stimulating online experience, it cannot compare to in-person schooling. Is the online format equally engaging and beneficial as in-person classes? Probably not. So should institutions be charging full price? Definitely not.