The pandemic has changed our world considerably with less person-to-person contact, more distancing and fewer social opportunities. The realities of a global health crisis have completely altered the life of college students. Previously, the student population of MSU had access to in-person educational aids such as the Math Learning Center, the Writing Center and Smarty Cats Tutoring, to name a few. Since these resources are now provided solely online, are they continuing to provide students sufficient educational support?
“Many students and families don't want to pay on-campus prices for online education. They argue that it takes the full college experience — in-person discussion, hands-on labs, the collegiate environment — to rationalize the steep tuition at residential-four year colleges,” said Anne Dennon, a senior writer for Best Colleges, in an article titled, “The Impact of COVID-19 on College Tuition.”
Over 100 class-action lawsuits have been brought against public and private universities across the nation since the pandemic began. Students are speaking up and making themselves clear. Sadly, the pandemic restrictions favor the institutions, not the students.
“The fundamental questions presented by these lawsuits are: (1) what did students pay for and on what terms; [and] (2) have they received something quantifiably less than that?” said Thomas H. Wintner and Mathilda S. McGee-Tubb in a National Law Review article titled, “COVID-19 Tuition and Fees Lawsuits: Defending University Practices and Defeating Class Claims.” MSU students are receiving less than the promised hands-on learning, educational resources and direct instruction than ever before. I believe that a significant adjustment to the price of student tuition is required.
In August 2020, former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock authorized the use of up to $20 million for COVID-19 procedures. This funding was provided by the CARES Act and distributed within the Montana University System. According to MSU News Service, this federal funding was designated for the preparation and continuation of safety guidelines. This single allowance alone is four times the total amount of Emergency Federal Financial Aid distributed to the MSU student population.
I feel there is an obvious imbalance. The hypotheticals of online classes seem fantastic at face value: more free time, better efficiency and ease of access. In reality, the vast majority of students are struggling in school now more than ever before. “Students consistently perform worse in an online setting than they do in face-to-face classrooms; taking online courses increases their likelihood of dropping out and otherwise impedes progress through college,” said Eric Bettinger and Susanna Loeb in a Brookings Institute report titled “Promises and pitfalls of online education.”
These are tough times across the board, but college students are already known for copious amounts of packaged noodles, cheap microwave meals, sharing rooms to lower living costs and coming face-to-face with the demanding realities of debt. Is it too much to ask for the decline in academic resources to be matched with a decline in the price of student tuition?