SURVEY: Students say they shouldn't have to pay full price for online classes

A survey shows most college students expect colleges to lower their fees if physical classes are not offered.

Seventy-eight percent of students did not find online courses as effective as in-person classes.

According to a recently published survey by College Pulse, the vast majority of college students say they should not have to pay full price for online classes.

The survey asked 5,000 students from more than 200 college campuses how they viewed the nationwide transition to online learning. 

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Overwhelmingly, more than 90 percent of students reported they should not foot the full bill for in-person learning if they are not getting the experience they were promised. While 63 percent indicated tuition should be “much less,” another 30 percent said it should be “a little less.”

”Students are smart enough to know that if they are getting courses online, the cost to offer those courses should go down — they want a better deal for their dollar,” Koch Foundation Executive Director Ryan Stowers told Axios

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Additionally, more than half of the students polled said it would be difficult to connect with the college community if there are no in-person classes. A majority of students said it would be difficult or very difficult to create friendships, be involved in extracurricular activities, and even manage time effectively if campus life is not offered.

The report also found that while many students thought their schools modified their learning environments appropriately, most of them felt like their professors were not equipped to handle the shift. 

Most respondents said colleges’ top priorities should be reducing the cost of textbooks and helping students find employment. Students did not believe that online courses helped them learn at their own speed, with two-thirds of students rejecting the notion that moving at one’s own pace is a benefit of online learning. 

Sixty-eight percent of students said that they expect that there will be “major” long-term changes to their college experience, rather than expecting things to go back to the way they were before the coronavirus outbreak. 

Seventy-eight percent reported that they found online learning to be less effective than in-person courses. 

The survey also noted that students believe online learning will inhibit critical thinking skills and the ability to work well with others -- skills many employers find attractive on a resume.

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Sallie Mae reports the average student paid $26,226 on higher education for the 2018-2019 school year. With other programs offering the same online courses at a fraction of the price, many students are beginning to question if the cost outweighs the advantages.

Tatum Malcolm, a rising sophomore at California Polytechnic State University, says she is considering taking a gap year altogether if her school does not return to campus.

“Online school has been really hard for me,” she told Campus Reform. “Early in my online class experience, I was thinking of deferring fall quarter. I just don’t learn well in an online format and I didn’t want to pay full tuition for it.”

Yet schools may not be quick to lower their cost. 

In a recent article, Money suggested universities will take a financial blow from the coronavirus. Colleges like the University of Alaska -- which just cut dozens of programs -- are struggling to keep their doors open. 

Find the author on Twitter: @rlorenm