Despite the urging from many students to decrease tuition for this school year, UBCO students can expect no reduction in their fees. These pleas for tuition reduction come at a time where UBCO will be offering the majority of their classes online due to COVID-19.
According to the recent Student Town Hall, students feel that online classes do not offer the same benefits as in-person classes. Furthermore, students maintain they should not be paying fees (such as recreational fees) for facilities to which they have no access. As a result, students are insisting they should be granted a tuition decrease.
To further concern students, the 2020/21 school year is also meant to see an increase in tuition prices according to a recent report from the board of governors. Usually, tuition increases for each school year are capped at 2% for domestic students and up to 5% for international students.
However, despite student concerns about these costs, the university maintains it requires the tuition funds to support the maintenance of facilities, faculty salaries, and other resources required to deliver the classes online. Dr. Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, Provost and Vice-Principal Academic at UBC Okanagan, addressed the university’s refusal to decrease tuition by stating the following:
“Now what I can tell you is even though the delivery is online, we have not actually cut corners in any of our quality of the learning experience we had hoped to provide when we meet in person. So, you’re still going to be taught by the same professors in the same ways. Only thing is it's going to be online, and, you know, we are a publicly funded organization and the situation [tuition] is a vital part of our resources and even considering the tuition, UBC is currently projecting a deficit of 225 million dollars.”
In addition to providing the same quality of education, Mukherjee-Reed goes on to explain that students' tuition is being concentrated in two areas: education and safety. She explains that the requirements for upholding student safety requires a lot of human, financial, and physical resources, which need tuition to be funded.
While the university maintains a well-founded reason as to why tuition cannot be decreased, it is also important to look at the situation from a student's perspective. Students have been severely impacted by the pandemic and many were unable to work during the summer. This creates a financial burden that is furthered by having to pay full tuition.
Furthermore, despite Dr. Mukherjee-Reeds explanation that the university is not cutting corners in quality education, it still stands that receiving schooling online is a very different and difficult experience. In-person learning provides an immersive learning environment where students can easily interact with professors and peers. This is lacking in online learning where half of the time you cannot even see your peers, and they cannot see you. Although faculty and administrators are trying their best to make this transition easier for students, the quality of online classes should not be compared to in-person learning.
In addition to quality of education, students do not have access to the full campus and its facilities, and yet are being forced to pay the normal tuition rate. Therefore, with all these factors considered, it is understandable why UBCO’s decision is seen as unfair by many students. UBCO and the board of governors should take into consideration the opinions, feelings and hardships of their students next time they discuss tuition prices.