As most parts of the world are still under the influence of COVID-19, universities have announced that classes will continue to be offered online for the coming fall, possibly even for the winter.
In light of the circumstances, many students had expressed that taking online classes is not their expectation for the tuition they pay for universities. While they understood the decision the schools had made is in consideration of students, staff, and faculties’ safety, they believe that a tuition reduction is necessary as students are unable to fully use the school facilities if they are taking classes from home.
Students at many reputable universities had started petitions for a tuition reduction for the change of class delivery method. Students argue that the virtual classes are not as effective as the in-person once, especially for those subjects that require on-hand experience. For many, it is hard to imagine their biology or chemistry laboratory to be the same but they are still required to pay lab fees.
While the petition form circulated among the students is getting more signatures, many universities had stated that a reduction of tuition is unlikely to happen, at least not for all students.
Universities argue that providing online lectures cost more on technology and human resources. While the fees for other services that are no longer available for students remotely will be reduced, most universities have no plan to reduce tuition in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, schools’ financial services pointed out that if students are in need of support, they have other methods to request fundings and loans. Other schools, including Harvard University, decided to charge tuition accordingly to the income of students’ families. However, few institutions had considered tuition reductions on a full scale.
Another shocking news was announced by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier this week. International students whose institutions only offer classes online in the fall are asked to leave the United States, or they might face immigration consequences. The number of international students in the U.S. is around 1 million by estimation. They have contributed to the U.S. economy and many institutions gain large revenue from international students. For most international students, the knowledge they learned in classes is only a part of the international experience. Interacting with different cultures and listening to different languages are other elements that attracted students to study abroad. Under the new policy, not only the parts of the study experience is lost, the deporting procedure might put international students in further risks. While travel restrictions are still strict in most parts of the world, international students may face an uncertain way home, which might increase their chances to be exposed to the virus.
International students are not the only ones who will be influenced by the policy. The limited amount of commercial flights currently operating is not efficient and enough to reach all international students’ home countries. If the U.S. decided to deport on international students, the burden is likely to be on the taxpayers.
On the other hand, for the universities that planned to return to campus, the safety measurements also raised concern. The University System of Georgia only encourages but does not require students, staff, and faculty to wear masks, which made most of its community members worried. Several students and faculties had started the petitions that request the institutions to reduce the risks for in-person classes.
The series of events made people wonder if higher education remains to be safe and financially reasonable during a crisis. If so, there should be signs of an effort to ensure such rights, both domestically and internationally.