College Students Demand Tuition Refund Amid Pandemic

Opinion By Mieko Yamamoto

“Taking online classes is like watching Khan Academy.”

Students demand a tuition refund. With COVID-19 came the transition of many schools into fully online learning that required full tuition, and hybrid schools requiring remote students to pay the same cost as students studying in person.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, students across the U.S. have filed over 100 lawsuits demanding tuition refunds. Students are unsatisfied with the compromised quality of their education amidst the pandemic.

I, as a remote asynchronous student, can attest to the difficulty in engaging with material on a tangible level.

Many public and private institutions argue that the quality of online education is significantly lower than in in-person classes.

I won’t go to say that it is unethical for colleges to demand the same tuition payment.

However, a lack of tuition cuts has prompted students to question the quality of their college experience. “What does tuition pay for, if not the venerated collegiate experience?”

A couple of weeks ago, I had a meeting with the student leaders of the International Student Programs (ISP). We gathered together to talk a little about what our semester has been like so far. Remote students were exhausted.

Instead of moving about in classrooms as one would in a normal college setting, remote students felt stuck in one place and on our computer screens all day to not only watch recordings but to do the assignments and required readings too.

Not only is eLearning physically draining, but students are also unable to have face-to-face conversations nor participate in campus activities. Experiences just seemed impossible to replicate in a virtual setting.

For students outside the United States, studying in-person wasn’t an option.

To ensure a safe opening of school for the semester, colleges encouraged individuals with health risks to stay home. Many students, therefore, chose to study remotely to save on tuition costs. Although student-loan debt disproportionately affects those of low-income students and families, many colleges seemed to care little. For many students, it felt they lost their hold on both their campus experience and money.

The Wall Street Journal put it this way,

“Would you pay $75,000 for front-row seats to a Beyoncé concert and be satisfied with a livestream instead?”

Wheaton is an example of a college that continues to strive for excellence in prioritizing its students. However, many colleges have failed to carry out their philosophy. 

My semester online has come with mental, emotional, and physical challenges in all its different forms and although I have yet to complain about the tuition cost myself, I won’t lie and say it hasn’t been hard.

My point is not to ask for a lower tuition cost. Instead, I seek to address the experiences of students in higher education whose life has been deeply affected by the pandemic, students in need of tuition refund.

I stand with the students who are struggling to make amends with the financial situation they are in.