UMass students shouldn’t pay full tuition this semester

Students aren’t getting what they paid for

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(Collegian File Photo)

By Maxwell Zeff, Assistant Op/Ed Editor

This past week, the University of Massachusetts Amherst emailed students that they would be receiving a partial refund for this semester’s room and board.

But why are we stopping there? UMass needs to offer a partial refund for tuition this semester because we’re not getting the college experience we paid for. Of course, the University is not to blame for the pandemic, and they’re probably hurting right now, just as we students are. But it shouldn’t be the students’ responsibility to pay for something we’re not getting.

Take what’s happened with the airline industry for example: thousands of flights have been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the people on those flights got refunds or credit to use another time. Sure, the airlines are badly hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, but it would be ridiculous for the people who bought tickets to still pay for cancelled flights. Those people aren’t getting what they paid for, so they’re compensated. I paid for a semester of college at UMass, and I’m not getting it, so why am I still expected to pay?

The UMass Office of the Bursar website reads“There will be no reimbursement of tuition for the Spring 2020 semester since coursework and instruction are continuing remotely.” Even though we’re having half our semester online, UMass still wants us to pay full tuition. What’s relevant here is that online education objectively costs less than in person education. I can take a full semester of online classes at UMass for just under $7,000 a semester, as opposed to paying over $15,000 ,like I do as an out of state student. Online tuition is worth less than half as much as my tuition, so why am I paying the same?

It’s also worth noting that after one week of online classes, my education this semester has been severely derailed. Not only is it more difficult to learn using Zoom, but all of my classes have decreased our workload to accommodate online learning. Many of these classes have been stripped down to just readings and assignments, not meeting online at all, forcing instructors to teach only the bare essentials of their courses. I understand that my professors feel they are being compassionate and trying to accommodate their students in a time of crisis. I’m not blaming them, and I’m not blaming UMass either, but the truth is that I’m just not getting what I paid for.

It is one thing for UMass to claim that online education is worth the same as in-person education, but our tuition pays for much more than learning in the classroom. We’re paying for the experience of college as a whole. UMass’s “Visit Campus” page, meant to attract new students, reads“Websites are great, but to really experience the University of Massachusetts Amherst, you should plan to visit campus,” and I couldn’t agree more. Our tuition pays for the lounges we study in, the gyms we workout in, the quads we relax on and much more.

Going to college allows young people to build professional connections, grow lifelong friendships and expand their horizons. The reason we pay such substantial tuitions includes these invaluable aspects of the college experience, that are worth just as much as the education itself. I recently joined one of UMass’s improv troupes and was working hard for my first show later this semester, which is now cancelled. My weekly practices with the UMass Rock Climbing team are also cancelled. The countless experiences, connections and achievements that could happen in these two months on UMass’s campus can’t be replaced with Zoom lectures. We’re getting a watered-down college experience this semester, and we’re expected to pay full price for it. I’m not writing this to blame UMass for these losses, and I understand it’s not the administration’s fault, but that doesn’t mean the students are responsible for bailing them out.

Having students pay full price for this makeshift, thrown together college semester, devalues the UMass experience. Regarding this as a full-priced semester sets a very low bar for the education the University is offering, and it does a disservice to the University, faculty and students.

I’ve had three normal semesters before this one, and I know how great UMass can be when we’re operating at full speed. College is where you meet people with different ideas, discover new things and grow intellectually and socially. That’s what we all pay tuition for, but that’s not what we’re getting this semester. We can’t let our University dilute the college experience to mere Zoom lectures, especially when it comes at the expense of the student body. If you’re a student at UMass, or any university, you should not accept paying full price for a diluted education.

Maxwell Zeff is an assistant Op/Ed editor and can be reached at [email protected]