Amid COVID-19, students and parents seek reimbursement from universities


Noah Wilbur | Opinions Editor

It’s no secret that the pandemic has sparked unusual change in our everyday lives, and college is not an exception. With most universities suspending in-person instruction indefinitely, students across America are questioning the value of their college education.

With the emergence of COVID-19, institutions of higher education face steep economic challenges resulting from the cancellation of sports seasons and study abroad trips, refunded room and board costs, declining sales from on-campus stores and increased sanitation expenses.

The numbers suggest that these financial blows are immense and widespread. ABC News reported that California’s university system endured a whopping $558 million in unforeseen expenses in March. In addition, the University of Michigan projected heavy losses of $400 million to $1 billion during the 2020/2021 academic year alone.

Astonishing as these figures may seem, what’s even more resounding is that nearly all 4,000 public and private universities in the U.S. continue to experience similar financial hardships, as the pandemic forces administrations to implement costly preventive policies.

In spite of the reductions in spending, hiring freezes and halted construction plans, these institutions are operating with significantly higher fixed costs, which are proving difficult to scale accordingly and leading to paper thin profit margins.

Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that students are experiencing the bulk of the pain as a subpar college education coupled with fewer networking opportunities and limited access to campus resources has sparked legitimate outrage from students and parents.

The primary concern provoking this uproar is that students are receiving a substandard education with online learning. The substantially less involved and collaborative “hybrid model” is proving to be detrimental for motivation and focus with many finding it nearly impossible to learn.

Not to mention, students are losing the opportunity to physically interact with professors and industry professionals, as well as the chance to collaborate with their peers — all critical factors in the development of well-rounded individuals.

In response to this oversight and borderline negligence, students are rebelling by threatening legal action, refusing to pay and demanding tuition refunds.

Despite the raised alarm, the majority of administrations refuse to offer any financial support for tuition and other related expenses. In fact, a quick search on Google reveals that tuition hikes — to which we’ve all grown accustomed — are continuing even as the pandemic disrupts traditional schooling.

Ultimately, I urge institutions of higher education to hold themselves accountable by offering full and partial refunds, tuition credits and tuition cuts as a result of the lower quality of education.

Although universities are obviously not at fault for the pandemic, they are responsible for the below average instruction we are currently receiving that is, without a doubt, indistinguishable from the standard of education received by our alumni.

Therefore, it is seemingly unnecessary for students and their families to pay significant amounts of money towards career development when only receiving half the experience. In other words, “Zoom University” is not worth $30,000 to $50,000 a year.

By providing some form of financial relief, universities demonstrate empathy and moral support on behalf of the students who, feeling reassured by their school’s dedication, will continue to fill the hallways and, in today’s world, online Zoom classes.