Petitions to reduce tuition for online learning gain traction nationally

Universities such as Duke and the Catholic University of America have responded by freezing or reducing their tuition.

Students around the country are calling for their universities to lower or freeze tuition since many schools are going online.

In response to colleges and universities shifting to online instruction, students across the country are signing petitions to pressure their schools to lower or freeze their tuition costs for the upcoming fall 2020 semester.

Because of the widespread transition to online at America’s colleges and universities amid the coronavirus pandemic, students have started petitions aimed at reducing the cost of attendance at their institutions. These petitions often cite the inferiority of online learning relative to in-person classes. This sentiment lines up with two polls conducted by OneClass, which found that 75 percent of students were unhappy with online instruction in the spring and that 93.2 percent believe tuition should be lowered for online classes.

Dozens of schools have been the targets of these petitions, including Rutgers, Northwestern, and Michigan State. Petitions to lower tuition have accrued tens of thousands of signatures with Rutgers’ petition alone acquiring more than 30,000.

[RELATED: Georgetown gives raises after getting millions in coronavirus aid]

Here is a list of just some of the petitions aimed at bringing down tuition.

One particular petition addressed to Queens University in opposition to its $780 tuition increase highlights the challenges that students enrolled in traditionally hands-on programs face as a result of the transition to online learning. The author, nursing student Laura Fadeley, stated that she chose the university “for their on-campus nursing program” even though “there were many online programs available that were more cost-effective and more time-efficient.” She went on to say that she “do[es] not learn as well when it comes to online courses.”

Fadeley criticized the tuition increase as a move to “take advantage of their students and profit off of them.” She later said of the additional $780 that Queens University is charging for its fall semester, “they are stealing from us!”

Campus Reform reached out to Fadeley but did not receive a response in time for publication.

[RELATED: Ivy League hikes tuition for online courses amid global pandemic]

Former president of Queens University’s College Republicans, Jackson Tunks, shared many of the same sentiments.

Tunks told Campus Reform that he believes his university cares more about money than its students.

“Queens has a tendency to care more about the money coming in than the students they’re trying to educate," Tunks said. “Queens’s and Lugo’s plan for their original reopening was poorly thought out and disrespectful to Queens students and the culture there.”

Tunks went further than Fadeley, stating that the university should be almost fully open.

“I think they should be open, allow sports (literally what Queens does) and permit international students to come back," he said, adding that "it should be the STUDENTS choice to decide they don’t want to return."

He concluded by asserting that Daniel Lugo, the university’s president, “is robbing everyone of a good education and experience.”

A similar petition aimed at Michigan State University calls on the institution to lower tuition, claiming that “online classes hold far less value compared to those that were once in a classroom” and that “students and peers of Michigan State University presume the degree has now been devalued.”

[RELATED: Nebraska lowers tuition costs despite other schools raising theirs]

When asked about this situation, MSU’s College Republicans told Campus Reform that students should return to the classroom.

“We believe students need to be in the classroom, including at the university level.” 

While the group agrees with the university that students need to be careful when returning to campus and understand the financial strain they are under, the College Republicans “still believe the university should not be charging full tuition to students as a majority of classes will not be totally in person.”

"The university should prioritize serving the student body and their families during this economic crisis rather than advocating far-left ideas," the MSU College Republicans concluded.

Campus Reform reached out to the universities facing a petition, asking them if they believe online instruction is equivalent to in-person teaching and how they justify charging the same, or more, for both. 

Campus Reform did not receive a response from any of the universities in time for publication.

This approach to pressuring universities to drop tuition for students forced to do their coursework online has seen some success.

So far, a few high profile institutions, such as Duke and the Catholic University of America, have agreed to freeze or even reduce tuition following petitions calling on them to do so.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @RobertSchmad