If you have season tickets to your local sports team, but then they don’t allow in-person fans, are you getting the same experience by watching online? Arguably the game is the same, so are you due a refund? But on the other hand, if the game is the same, then why was the in-person experience touted as better, and therefore worth the price, in the first place?
That’s the argument facing colleges. They claim that their online learning during COVID-19 is just as good as their in-person instruction, and therefore they don’t need to reduce tuition and fees. Also, their costs have not diminished, in fact, they are spending more to comply with new health and technological challenges.
But if the instruction is “just as good,” then why in the world would anyone pay to be on campus in the first place, and doesn’t that render all of their marketing material touting the “college experience,” as fluff at best and fraud at worst?
As we move through the first full semester with classes online, students at Columbia College in Chicago (not related to the one in New York), which costs $14,000 per year, are pushing back and calling for a tuition cut.
Georgetown, Princeton, and others have already dropped tuition by 10%, but for many students, that’s not enough.
Columbia student Isaiah Moore from New Jersey said:
“We want our tuition to reflect the way our education is being experienced now. This is the time we need more unprecedented solutions to unprecedented problems.”
For their part, Columbia College issued a statement that said:
“For all three instructional methods, the college will be delivering all expected learning outcomes for courses and credit towards graduation.”
The University of New Mexico actually went the other direction by raising tuition 2.6% this year, although that move probably was in the works long before COVID-19 became a common term.
The situation is bringing up a conversation that colleges don’t want to have. Are they simply a factory plunking out kids who can learn from anywhere, which reduces their instruction to a commodity, or are they valued centers of learning where the environment is part of the experience?