A Few Colleges Have Announced Tuition Discounts For Virtual Classes

Photographed by Gabby Jones.

As July nears its close, the question of college tuition becomes increasingly urgent. Most campuses will offer virtual classes, if not in addition to socially-distance in-person teaching, then instead of it. Understandably, if students have to front the costs of internet connection, a laptop, a quiet space to attend a virtual class, and have no access to the amenities of a college campus, tuition for a fully virtual semester should reflect that. Alas, colleges are insisting on charging full tuition for virtual classes. Except for a sensible few.

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According to CNBC, Hampton University of Virginia; Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia; and Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas will offer discounted tuitions. All three of these are HBCUs (historically Black colleges or universities). Hampton University is cutting tuition for the fall semester by 15%. Spelman College is cutting tuition costs by 10% for the whole year whole, and Paul Quinn College is slashing about $2,000 from its regular semester price. Here's hoping other institutions follow the lead of these schools.

This story was originally published on June 25, 2020.

Class of 2020 will not — and did not — have it easy. To wrap up senior year of high school and apply for college while only being able to access tests and advisors remotely, if at all, is a feat. Now, as they transition into their first year of college, the uncertainty abounds.

Typically, first-year students have to worry about moving into dorm rooms, enrolling in meal plans, and diving off the deep-end of self-sufficiency. Since March, many schools have shifted to full-time remote classes to adjust to the demands of the pandemic. This Fall, schools are announcing fully-remote semesters or a suite of social distancing measures to welcome people back to campus, or a combination of the two. But, if courses are going to be taught online, students want a discount. 

According to a survey shared by Axios, more than 90% of college students interviewed say they should pay less in tuition if they're only getting online classes. This is from a College Pulse survey that interviewed over 5,000 full-time undergraduate students across 215 universities.

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Overall, the survey suggests students are happy with how their institutions have handled the pandemic's demand for social distancing. But that doesn't mean quality hasn't been sacrificed: Faculty is struggling to teach through a screen, the social aspect of learning in a classroom is nearly absent, and students are more cut off from the general benefits of campus life. In short, they're not getting what they signed up for, so why should they be paying the same price?

The cost of higher education amid the pandemic has gotten plenty of institutions in hot water. Many charged regular tuition and room and board for the Spring semester and have had to deal with demands for partial refunds and sometimes lawsuits. Some even went as far as to move ahead with planned tuition increases. At best, some schools have been enticing fall students by offering relief programs, scholarships, rolling back tuition increases, freezing tuitions, and even allowing payment deferrals. However, major institutions, like UC Berkeley, are refusing to adjust their tuitions, even if classes are taught online. 

The College Pulse survey seems to suggest that students are aware and game to make the sacrifices needed to complete their degrees safely. In fact, students seem enthusiastic to see what opportunities arise — for both students and schools — from improved remote teaching. Schools should be meeting their students with a similar maturity.

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