College students are in revolt against their universities as the institutions have refused to budge on tuition reimbursements or reductions while offering sub-par remote learning classes in online-only format.
“The coronavirus crisis is forcing a reckoning over the price and value of higher education,” The Washington Post wrote earlier.
Angry students and their parents are in some cases suing their schools. The suits focus on everything from seeking significant tuition reimbursements – hinging on the argument that normal higher class prices are tailored to the costs associated with physical classroom instruction – to full refunds for campus housing and meal plans (some schools have offered housing prorated refunds and campus fees, while others haven’t returned anything).
Forbes detailed some of the latest class action lawsuits as follows: “Students at the University of Miami have filed a class action lawsuit claiming they have paid for in-person courses at a higher rate and, with online instruction, they aren’t getting what they paid for this semester. Students at Drexel University in Pennsylvania have filed a similar suit asking for tuition refunds.”
But school administrations have remained aloof to student demands given schools are already losing tens of millions in campus and summer fees given shutdowns, also as the question of whether in-person instruction will even happen next Fall is a huge unknown, potentially delivering a financial fatal blow to a number of already struggling schools. Endowment values have plunged along with markets to boot.
“Schools geared toward full-time students… offer, in normal times, academic programs with a personal touch, including seminars, laboratory classes, office hours and research opportunities with faculty,” WaPo wrote.
How long until colleges/universities are broke or capitulating on tuition? There is no way people are going to pay current prices for a bad on-line version.
— Tom Flatten The Curve Hearden (@followtheh) April 21, 2020
And of course there’s the crucial aspect, from students’ perspective, of the overall social experience of dorm-life, parties, and making friends. “Much of that vanished when campuses shuttered last month,” the report emphasized.
The schools are maintaining their position of resisting refunds, arguing that technically classes have continued, just in a different format, and that grades and credits have continued being awarded.
In other instances, such as in Arizona and at Virginia’s Liberty University, students are suing for the return of housing costs as well as unused campus fees, given campus activities closed for the rest of the semester.
In many instances the schools are not even prorating costs based on when students were told to vacate, outraging families enough to take the matter to court.
The $600 billion-plus higher education industry is expected to suffer effects of this Spring’s campus shutdowns at least through Summer and next Fall, given everything down to campus tours for potential recruits have been canceled, leaving open the crucial question of incoming levels of freshmen and vital tuition revenue for next year.
And now it’s not a question of profitability, academic reputation or long-term growth, but of mere survival past the 2020 to 2021 school years.