Students tell Chico State University to 'reopen or lower our tuition'

Chico State President Grace Hutchinson reversed a decision to fully resume in-person learning this fall, committing to offer “approximately 20 to 30 percent of our fall 2021 course selections either fully in-person or blended.”

In response, thousands of students launched a petition demanding the school "reopen or lower our tuition."

A student at California State University, Chico launched a petition demanding that the college reopen or lower its tuition and fees. 

“Every day, I drive past Notre Dame Elementary School, just a mere four blocks from the Chico State Campus and see hundreds of kids playing in the school yard,”  Zoe Kunhart wrote in Reopen Chico State or Lower Our Tuition, “Why is it that they can go to school and their tiny administration can figure out a way to continue in-person learning but our California State Institution cannot?” 

Chico State President Grace Hutchinson had just reversed a previous decision to fully resume in-person learning this fall, committing to offer “approximately 20 to 30 percent of our fall 2021 course selections either fully in-person or blended.” 

“There is no easy explanation of what this means for students,” Hutchinson continued. “It could mean a fully online schedule or one that is both in-person and online.” 

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But Zoe Kunhart, who created the petition, and the more than 4,500 students who had signed the petition at the time of this article’s publication want a clearer policy. Learning online, she said, has undermined their ability to learn.  

“The online education that I have experience during the past academic year pales in comparison to the in-person learning that we received before. I think that I can speak for the majority of the student body when I say that I feel behind in almost every aspect of my education because of online learning.” 

Kunhart also questioned the rationale of the university’s goal to host 20-30 percent of its classes in person, asking to know who will decide which “students have the right to in-person classes while the rest of the student body sits back and watches their money go down the drain.”

Students have also continued subsidizing the university’s daily operations during its shutdown, she added, paying fees for services like the Wildcat Recreation Center and Meriam Library, buildings Chico State closed during the coronavirus pandemic. 

[RELATED: UC-Boulder resists tuition refunds as classes move online. One student is suing.]

“Throughout the last academic year here at Chico State, 16,000 students continued to pay full tuition of over $7,000 a semester for online learning, and for many months we were without access to many resources that are supposed to be included in tuition.” 

Campus Reform has covered stories of students fighting their colleges for fairer pricing during the coronavirus pandemic before. In December, students at Towson University in Maryland petitioned the university to refund a $499 athletics fee. And at Manhattanville College in Harrison, New York, college officials were sued by a former student for allegedly withholding his refund after learning he declined to return for a second year. 

Rice University will also litigate claims it cheated its students. In February, student Anna Seballos filed a class-action lawsuit against Rice alleging that closing the campus indefinitely deprived students of the “college experience they paid for.”  She is seeking $5 million in damages. 

CSU spokesman Sean Murphy told Campus Reform that “the University is always appreciative when our students take a leadership role to stand up for what they believe in.” 

”The concept of reopening campus is a bit of misnomer. The University has remained open throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and fully expects that to remain unchanged. However, the majority of our operations continue to take place virtually in accordance with federal, state, and local public health guidelines. We are using those same guidelines to plan for the fall 2021 semester.” 

Follow the author of this article: Dion Pierre