Will Colleges Lower Tuition Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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Graduation Cap via Wikimedia Commons

By Razina Ahmed, Academics Editor

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging in our country, our youth have suffered physical, mental, and emotional impacts. But what about the financial impact? According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate has nearly doubled from 3.5% in February of 2020 to 6.9% in October of 2020. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, leaving parents and children and their children entering college a new financial barrier to navigate. Given the economic hardships our students face, and the possibility of starting their fall semester via remote learning, the viable question to ask becomes, will colleges look to decreasing tuition?

The question was previously asked after the spring semester for college students in 2020, where students were frustrated with little leniency shown to their college tuition amidst the outbreak of COVID-19. At the University of Washington, over 15,000 students signed a petition to be refunded some of their tuition following the campus closing in the spring.

“We believe that these are valuable hundreds of hours we are missing out on being at the school physically,” the petition states. “It is entirely impossible for the students to receive the fullness of the educational experience we are paying for, not to mention the immense amount of tuition for the out-of-state students.”

From the perspective of colleges, schools with high reputations and large endowments are willing to decrease their tuition. Williams College, the wealthiest liberal arts college in the country with a 2.9 billion dollar endowment, was the first school to announce a cut in tuition, room, and board at 15% for the 2021-2022 academic school year. Princeton, Lafayette, and Georgetown University have also announced a 10% reduction in tuition.

But what do all of these schools have in common? They are private institutions. Unlike these schools, public colleges and universities are offered less freedom for the reduction of their costs. At the University of Michigan, a public university, the school approved a 1.9% tuition increase and $12.8 million in additional need-based financial aid for undergraduates on the campus. Out of state, students are not considered a part of this.

According to Mark Schlissel, the President of the University, “We are committed to do our very best to make sure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not result in a lost generation of students who were unable to continue or complete their Michigan educations because of the circumstances we all find ourselves in.”’

Some schools in the country are making amends to tuition through other means, such as reducing costs for students living off-campus.

According to Thomas McWhorter, Dean of Financial Aid at the University of Southern California, in a school-wide email over the summer, “The Financial Aid Office will award $4,000 each semester through the Undergraduate Living-at-Home Scholarship to students who normally receive financial aid for housing but who choose to remain at home this fall and next spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The email came after thousands of students signed a petition at USC pushing for the university to stop increasing tuition.

Maryan Rassam, a senior at Niles West and Treasurer for the National Honors Society, sees that a cut in college tuition is needed.

“Colleges and universities need to decrease their tuition now more than ever. Many students and their families lost jobs due to COVID-19; it is not fair that some of those students have given up on attending their dream school because of money. Universities and colleges need to be more considerate of the financial situation of the students, which many universities do,” Rassam said.

For Rassam, the cost of college tuition in other countries should be taken into comparison with the United States.

“In many other countries, public universities are completely free. This is because education shouldn’t be only for the rich or people who can afford it. It is because of the very expensive tuitions that there is a gap between people financially,” Rassam said.

There are still many unanswered questions regarding college tuition for the upcoming school year. For seniors at Niles West, they can fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. The FAFSA is a graduation requirement at Niles West for seniors, so if you have any questions about filling out the application, contact the College and Career Resource Counselor, Mr. Daniel Gin, at [email protected]