When Rutgers University announced most of its classes this fall would be online amid the current health crisis, rising junior Shreya Patel checked in the school website’s FAQs for details if they will get a refund.
“They said no. That obviously made me mad,” Patel told CNN. “It just doesn’t make sense to be paying such a high amount for something that’s not being used to the full advantage.”
“I don’t think the well-being of a billion-dollar institution should be compared to students who are severely struggling,” she said. “They might not be able to survive, but I know that Rutgers has the capacity to make it through this just fine.”
In July, Patel started a petition to lower fees at the university in New Jersey, where in-state tuition costs $11,600 and out-of-state students pay $27,560 a year. She got nearly 31,000 signatures, and the college did reduce campus fees by 15% but left tuition unchanged.
In a statement released to CNN, Rutgers University said it recognized the economic stresses faced by its community, but pointed out that costs were rising for almost all its operations.
“Tuition and fees are set at the minimum amount required to provide our 70,000 students with a world-class education… a robust Rutgers education, whether delivered in a remote, hybrid or in-person fashion, is comprehensive and is provided by some of the finest scholars in American higher education,” it said.
What happened at Rutgers is also happening at colleges across the US as educators and administrators try to launch the new academic year and students and their families decide what that teaching is worth.
Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University who opposes high tuition costs, believes students like Patel are right to be mad.
“Universities have backed themselves into a corner,” Galloway told CNN.
“We have raised tuition on average 2 1/2-fold over the last 20 years.I think Covid-19 was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, where families across America are saying, ‘Enough already. We’re not going to pay $58,000 for Zoom classes.
According to a count by the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 75% of the country’s 5,000 colleges are expected to be partially or fully online this fall.
Like Rutgers, some colleges have cut campus fees including Williams College, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Georgetown, Spelman, and Clark Atlanta University have dropped tuition costs, sometimes more for those choosing to study from home.