By SooBean Kim, September 18 2020—
As we brace ourselves for the fall semester, the sight of our bloated tuition numbers has shocked the best of us. With classes being switched to remote learning due to COVID-19, there was a general atmosphere amongst students believing that tuition would be reduced. However, not only is this not the case, but tuition has actually increased. The previously approved tuition increase has been in effect since May 2020 and the changes are consequential for low to mid-income families. Although minor fees have been altered for the fall semester, the changes are temporary and minuscule. However, the main issue is the quality of education that we are receiving. Previously, our education has mainly been a hybrid of in-person lectures and online administration. Remote learning is, for the most part, new and foreign to us. Sadly, new does not always mean better. The controversy lies within the balance between the new quality of education, our tuition, and whether or not the latter should remain the same.
One of the main points of attending university is to receive a high-level education that will help us succeed in the future. According to a recent poll by the trending Instagram page UofConfessions, 94 per cent of those who participated found it unfair to pay the same amount of tuition for online courses. This is thousands of people indicating that they are feeling wronged by the university. If a significant majority believes that the education provided online is lacking and unfair, there is an issue that needs to be addressed. Online learning is at the forefront of reforming education at a foundational level. Whilst it may be the innovative way of the future, the system is not nearly developed enough to be considered a fair substitute today. Students will be watching lectures on screens for hours on end just to finish and begin assignments and projects online as well. The quality of post-secondary education is heavily based on student engagement. This is why we evaluate courses and professor performances on a frequent basis. Our experiences matter. With the drastic change to remote learning, student engagement has plummeted.
This being said, is it fair to blame the university? The COVID-19 crisis has heavily impacted the school financially. On-campus venues and businesses were halted, residence facilities emptied, all whilst near-empty buildings still require maintenance and sanitation daily. These examples just skim the surface of the financial losses that the situation has brought on. Also, the provincial budget cuts to post-secondary establishments have been pushing Alberta’s universities into an economic nightmare. It makes sense that the university would not be able to afford a substantial decrease in tuition. Although this point of view is understandable, it is not fair to students. We must remember that we as students exist to serve ourselves and not the university. We are more than statistics that provide the university with money. Our loyalties are to our education. We should not be the ones to sacrifice more for less. With COVID-19 forcing many out of work, tuition has become more and more of a burden for students. Without a doubt, the school has been facing daunting financial issues due to the pandemic. However, should students be the ones to pay for it?
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.