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COVID-19: Universities Must Compensate Students for Their Losses

The coronavirus pandemic has forced universities across the globe to shut down as classes transition to virtual formats. This change harms students who must pay for their on- or off-campus housing for the duration of the school year. Universities need to issue students a partial refund for this financial burden, especially considering that the integrity of our educational experience has been severely compromised.

I’m a graduate student at Columbia University paying $1800/month for rent in New York City until my lease expires in May when I am scheduled to graduate. Because of COVID-19, all Columbia classes will be remote for the indefinite future.

Campus events have been put on hold and non-mandatory face-to-face meetings are highly discouraged. At this point, there is no reason for me to stay in New York City when I could return to my family’s permanent address as I finish the semester online.

Why should I pay nearly $80,000 for an in-person Columbia degree only to take online courses when I could pay a fraction of that price for a virtual graduate program? I am not alone in this thinking. More than 5,000 Columbia students have already signed a petition demanding a partial reimbursement from the university due to the “reduction in educational quality” caused by coronavirus.

Shortcomings of Online Classes

Online instruction has simply not advanced to where it needs to be. A report from George Mason University suggests that online classes are not headed in the right direction, failing to provide meaningful interactions with the instructor and fellow classmates.

Online classes grant students access to information but fail to provide students with the learning skills necessary to absorb and integrate that information. These skills largely develop through face-to-face interactions.

Online classes offer less accountability than in-person courses. There are several memes circulating about drinking games for students taking online courses. The ability to organically exchange opinions and robustly discuss course topics is simply not possible with an online course. Even if there is a discussion chat room established for students, the format can not compare to a classroom debate.

Of course, not all learning takes place in the classroom. Columbia University prides itself on hosting events with world-class academics, thought leaders, and professionals. University-sponsored training and workshops can no longer take place unless they are virtual.

Furthermore, the university typically hosts several networking functions each week, providing future economic opportunities for students who are soon to enter the workforce. None of this will happen with the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the U.S. like wildfire.

Obviously, this is an extraordinary time for everyone across the globe. Recovering from this pandemic demands creative and innovative solutions for those who suffer financial losses. Most universities have multi-billion-dollar endowments. There is absolutely no excuse not to help students in this time of need.

Those of us graduating are likely to enter the workforce at the dawn of a recession with thousands of dollars of student loans to pay off. Now is the time for universities to step in and do what is right. Issuing a partial tuition reimbursement would be a good place to start.


DISCLAIMER! The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of The College Post.

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