Change Tuition to Reflect the Difference in Educational Experiences of Remote Learning

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The following petition is intended to dissuade Springfield College from charging graduate students the in-person tuition cost for courses administered exclusively remotely over the Summer 2020 semester. Although a formal decision about summer costs has not been communicated to all graduate programs at this time, we respectfully urge the institution to charge the appropriate rate for the services provided. 

The current global crisis has created hardship for the university as well as for the student body.  This crisis has required the university to move to remote learning, which changes the value of the education for which we are paying. In addition, the pandemic and its consequences have undermined our ability to pay. Given the change in access to funding sources faced by many students, the change in the quality of education, and the additional burdens imposed on students by online learning, there is no justification in charging students the in-person tuition rate for the Summer 2020 Session. We therefore encourage the administration to consider the following concerns, which are supported by the findings of the survey of students linked here: 

  1. The consequences of the COVID-19 crisis which have necessitated the move to online courses have also negatively impacted our ability to pay. The ability of Springfield’s graduate students to pay for summer courses has been reduced in a variety of ways, and consequently, we fear that our ability to enroll at Springfield College for the Summer 2020 semester may be jeopardized if the university chooses to impose charges greater than the normal online learning tuition. Funding sources are now scarce, as employment has been reduced, and federal loans are inaccessible for students in certain situations. Each student’s financial situation is unique, however, we all now face uncertainty regarding the status of future funding sources and employment opportunities. It is in the mutual interest of the graduate students and the college to ensure that enrollment in the summer session remains affordable in order to prevent students who have been impacted by the economic crisis to seek enrollment elsewhere at a cost consistent with online learning, or to disenroll due to financial hardship. It is critical therefore that the university charges the normal rate for online classes, as an increase would be cost-prohibitive and would affect enrollment.
  2. Online courses affect the quality of education. Online learning is inherently different than in-person learning, and the cost of such courses must reflect that difference.  The collective experiences of graduate students who have already been required to transition to online classes this semester reveal disparities in the quality and nature of education between in-person and remote learning such that in-person tuition cannot be justified. The included survey demonstrates that graduate students encountered greater difficulty in accessing faculty outside of allotted class time after transitioning to online classes. Additionally, due to the technological limitations of online classes, students spend less time interacting with peers and colleagues through collaborative work or in-class discussion. Moreover, a majority of graduate students reported reduced lecture time in online courses. Our findings suggest that the online format of our classes has reduced these enriching aspects of the education for which we are paying. Given the evidence that online learning is less valuable than in-person classes, charging the rate for in-person courses is unjustifiable. Indeed, the very fact that the two types of courses are priced differently supports this conclusion. 
  3. Online courses impose additional burdens on students. The included student survey demonstrates that online learning shifts various responsibilities and burdens to the graduate student. Remote classes require students to provide their own workspace and overcome the many challenges associated with working from home. For most students, this reduces the amount of space they have in which to study. Lack of space can make learning more difficult as many students are “attending” class in shared living spaces, and in some circumstances are responsible for dependent care and face distractions associated with shared physical workspace. A majority of graduate students reported reduced access to technology after the switch to online courses. Students must provide their own internet access, and many will have no access to printers, scanners, and other equipment. These changes impose barriers for students, and disproportionately impact the education of students with financial limitations. A majority also indicated that the nature of learning has changed since moving to remote classes, as they now spend more time independently learning. These increased logistical burdens on graduate students require more time, effort, and money, which would normally be offset by the reduced price of online courses. 

We respectfully insist the administration consider the concerns of graduate students and the data presented herein. The undersigned graduate students of Springfield College seek to be charged tuition rates for regional and online classes, rather than in-person graduate tuition rates, as classes are indefinitely switched to remote learning. It is unreasonable and unjustifiable to continue to charge the rate for in-person courses