Hundreds of students at the University of Chicago are threatening not to pay tuition for the current semester if the school doesn’t agree to slash the cost in half, and to cancel other fees and other costs.
“It’s difficult for a lot of students that need resources that are here on campus,” student Luis Rubio told CBS 2.
Rubio said he’s “dipping into … savings” to cover costs amid the coronavirus pandemic that canceled in person classes last month, particularly costs associated with virtual learning he didn’t sign up for.
The University is much better positioned to absorb the costs of the pandemic than students, who pay nearly $57,000 a year in tuition. CBS 2 pointed to the school’s $8.2 billion endowment touted on the university website.
“I understand the university is probably having to make some financial arrangements that are difficult and adapting to this crisis, but the university will recover and many students will not,” Rubio’s off campus quarantine roommate, Anna Attie, told CBS 2.
Rubio and Attie launched UChicago for Fair Tuition to demand the 50 percent tuition cut and other changes in light of “students’ and families’ loss of income” during the coronavirus pandemic, Block Club Chicago reports.
In addition to the tuition cut, the group wants the university to waive fees, advanced residency tuition for doctoral students, provide a breakdown of university spending, a return of part-time student status eliminated in 2015, and a tuition freeze.
“The University of Chicago, which just raised $5.4 billion in a fundraising campaign, has the financial means and the responsibility to provide relief for us and for our families,” the petition argues.
CBS 2 reports more than 1,000 students have signed the petition in support and more than 350 students have committed to withholding tuition when it’s due on April 29 if UChicago doesn’t comply with their demands. Students want the changes to continue “until the end of the crisis,” according to the news site.
“We’re hoping that if the university is willing to talk, we won’t need to strike,” student Livia Miller told Block Club Chicago. “I think myself and my peers feel really confident about this being a moment where the university will give us a seat at the table.”
UChicago officials, meanwhile, aren’t budging.
Online classes count for full credit toward students’ “rigorous, transformative education” through remote learning, university spokesman Gerald McSwiggan said in a prepared statement to Block Club Chicago.
“Classes taken during the Spring Quarter will count fully toward completion of all degree programs, and as such they will continue to have regular tuition rates,” he said.
McSwiggan said there’s ample financial assistance available “for students who encounter unexpected expenses.”
UChicago also provided a little context for CBS 2:
As of 2018, UChicago guarantees free tuition for families with incomes under $125,000 per year (with typical assets). Families earning less than $60,000 (with typical assets) have full tuition, fees, room and board covered by financial aid. The average financial aid award for first-year students is more than $50,000. The UChicago Empower initiative, announced in 2018, made standardized testing optional and expanded financial aid, contributing to enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Compared with major four-year universities in Illinois and nationwide, UChicago graduates have among the lowest levels of student debt and exceptional career outcomes, including placement with substantive job opportunities and top graduate programs.
Regardless, students told Block Club Chicago the threatened tuition strike is really an opportunity to “politicize this crisis” as part of “a broader fight for equitable and accessible education.”
The students essentially think someone else should pay for their education.
“Students are rightfully upset; this isn’t the quarter we paid for,” Attie told the site. “But higher education should never have been a commodity in the first place. This is something we deserve as a right.”