When colleges sent their students home last March 2020, no one knew that they wouldn’t return to campus in just a few weeks. Colleges, schools, parents, and students were making decisions and predictions every 3-4 weeks until summer rolled around. Since then, parents and students have demanded refunds for dorms and meals they couldn’t use or consume, and then they asked for partial refunds due to the online instruction that we all know was not up to par.
Now colleges are making decisions about opening their campuses up in the fall, winter, or spring based on finances. Well, of course they care about their faculty, students, and staff but without tuition and funds for housing and meal plans, many colleges are facing financial ruin. Colleges are scrambling to improve online lectures, interactions with students, socially-distanced labs, and the college experience. They are remodeling dorms, bathrooms, classrooms, lecture halls, and athletic facilities. All of this takes millions of dollars that colleges weren’t expecting to dole out in a short window of time.
Many colleges are offering 10% off tuition and student activities fees for fall term, and most aren’t charging for room and board. This helps all students, but not all college students are in the same financial place. Some colleges are doubling awards for existing scholarships so students who obviously need financial aid will get twice as much during this pandemic. This helps even the playing field because those who can pay $50,000 a year for tuition without assistance probably don’t need a 10% refund. Right?
I’m hoping that all colleges offer the financial support that low-income students need so that they don’t drop out of school. These low-income students are largely black and Hispanic. Colleges need funds to keep their doors open and to do the remodeling and restructuring to bring students back to campus again. Seems to me that an equitable way to accomplish this is to charge high-income students full tuition and room/board acknowledging that these funds will help the college prepare for on-campus classes for all.