Staff Editorial: Fordham Should Refund Partial Tuition for a Virtual Student Experience

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Despite the changes that the pandemic has brought, Fordham decided to yet again increase tuition for the fall 2020 semester by 3.3%. With mostly-online coursework, a lack of in-person contact due to necessary health precautions and the growing strains on many students’ financial and mental health, projected tuition costs simply do not match the reality of the fall semester. In order to accommodate for the new virtual experience, Fordham should refund students for the increased tuition costs and lower tuition costs in the spring.

Most students, even if they choose to come back to campus, are going to take some portion of their classes online. Even if students sign up for a hybrid experience, they are still at the mercy of their professors, who may decide at a moments’ notice to transition the class to a virtual format. These potential changes, alongside the changes that Fordham has already made by restricting class sizes and dining locations, means that all students will be forced to experience a highly altered and diminished semester. A refund is the least that Fordham can do to repay students for the aspects of college life that they are missing out on due to the pandemic.  

With the social aspects and physical amenities inaccessible and major parts of the college experience missing, it’s unreasonable to expect students to pay the full price tag for a service they are not receiving. A recent petition founded by 10 Fordham students and circulated by @letstalkaboutitfordham demands lower tuition costs and exemplifies the anger and disappointment that the tuition increase has inspired. Students are simply not content to spend thousands of dollars on Zoom calls and FaceTime chats. Even for those students who can still come to campus after the quarantine requirements, any class could be transitioned to a virtual format at a moment’s notice — not to mention the 1,980 classes throughout the entire university that will be offered only online, as of Aug. 17. If this trend continues in the spring, then Fordham needs to lower tuition costs significantly. 

What makes the tuition increase sting even more is the massive blow the pandemic has dealt to the financial stability of many Fordham families. A recent survey conducted by LoaningTree found that 36% of parents have already been forced to take money from their children’s college funds in order to remain financially stable during the pandemic, and the situation is not likely to improve anytime soon. Affording a college tuition alongside everyday expenses is already a difficult task for most of us, but when family providers are laid off from work or unable to earn money, these financial burdens become nearly impossible to manage. To respond to a severe economic crisis by raising the cost of tuition as families face bankruptcy is inexcusable. The New School promised a freeze in tuition, Georgetown cut costs by 10%, and Santa Clara created a special fund for grants — why didn’t Fordham do the same? 

In the past, the Editorial Board has expressed empathy for Fordham’s financial situation during the pandemic. None of this sentiment remains. While the outbreak of the virus in the spring was unexpected and beyond Fordham’s control, now the university has had ample time to prepare for the difficulties of the fall semester. 

We expect the more than 160 faculty members on the Fordham Forward Task Force to continue to champion the idea of cura personalis, to do more than fiddle while we struggle. By raising tuition prices, Fordham has demonstrated that its primary concern is not the wellbeing of the student body but rather the money in our wallets. 

The decision to increase tuition is a blatant insult to students. Fordham students deserve a partial refund for fall tuition costs, and a guarantee that tuition costs will decrease in the spring should online classes become the new normal. The pandemic might have placed Fordham under financial strain — but that does not give them the right to overcharge students for a subpar college experience.