Why there should be a different solution to aid students
On Wednesday, April 14, CU Denver Campus Communication’s COVID-19 Update discussed the University’s decision to only refund housing and parking, saying there will be no refund of tuition, specifically stating: “We expect that you will complete the spring 2020 semester and since courses taught virtually continue to count fully toward your degree program, tuition and mandatory fees will remain unchanged.” While this is certainly not a simple budgeting process, evaluating next year’s prospects and enrollment while discussing student compensation for the pandemic’s impact on the university’s resources and structure, it does however raise an alarm about the way in which educational dollars may be valued on an institutional level.
Look at the cost of a three credit class for the 2019-2020 academic year. For an out of state student, the sticker price is $3,051. For the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program, $1,908. And finally, for a Colorado resident, $1,272 is the starting price of a standard 3 credit-hour class. That’s a steep investment every student is making for every single one of their classes—whether that is coming from loans, scholarships, out of pocket, or a combination of the three. Tens of thousands of students are paying five to ten times this every six months for their collective course load, and then there is the abundance of students fees tacked on top.
In some fields, those dollars are investments in a field of work that requires specific institutionally structured learning processes, like medicine and engineering. In others, the real value comes from the connections that will be made and the collaborative projects that will connect them into the real world. And yet, this division ultimately becomes united by the simple notion that real learning is happening in a classroom not on a computer.
The current state of the world is officially out of everyone’s hands because it’s already happened. People are out of work and they’re expected to pay full rent and amenities regardless. And $1000-$3000 dollar classes are now subjected to serious lag times, buffering, and disconnection. Education has an almost fabled value in the United States and yet, the educational institution has shown that its interests lie less with the students, and more with the dollars they pay.
The mentality shown from educational institutions seems to be concurrent to the mindset most landlords and apartment ownership seem to show with the reduction of amenities due to the pandemic: If it’s out of their control, they do not owe residents any compensation, or in the best case scenario, it will be “discussed,” like two parents defusing their child’s passionate yearning for an ice cream outing. But what’s been lost in education this semester does deserve compensation; it’s the only real value worth the obscenely rising costs. In an informational age where practically every book, lesson, and random thought can be found at the tap of a finger—the real value of higher education is about the connections and collaborations made in person.
Now, just because there will be no direct refund for Spring 2020 classes, that does not mean compensation is out of the question. Moving forward, the University could implement a reduced tuition rate for the semesters of Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 for all student enrolled during the COVID-19 crisis. More than one solution exists. But whether the establishment aligns its goals with the education quality over quantity will always be the deciding say.