Little financial relief for students despite dramatically reduced services

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Do the right thing Ivan Hernandez (flickr)

What are we paying for?

Over the summer students have been paying full tuition despite the fact that instruction is being done through online classes, the library is closed, and access to the campus and campus services remains tightly restricted. In the fall this is not expected to change for students. So, what can students expect for Fall 2020?

In a recent email to students it was revealed that there would be no tuition increase in Fall 2020. Recreation and athletic fees  are being waived, as well as parking fees. The U-Pass, which was hard-won, has been unceremoniously dumped for being unfeasible” and URSU has yet to offer an alternative, saying only that they are in talks” with Regina Transit to find an alternative.

While only a select few courses are being taught in classroom, restricted to classes that require hands-on approaches, such as some classes with labs, and studio classes. These classes will largely be limited to 15 students per lab/seminar/studio to have a more controlled” campus.

Despite this lack of tuition decrease on behalf of the university, students are still losing out on critical features of the university experience. For example, students are paying the same fees despite having no access to university computers, or to library services. There’s no library fee” being stricken from the list of bills to pay for students.

[Author’s update: In a recent interview with the Provost Thomas Chase he explained that the CCE Online Material Fee is only being added to classes that are asynchronous. Any classes that meet on Zoom at a regular class time do not have that CCE Online Material Fee.

He also pointed out that counselling services and library services are available online at the University website, and the library has been adding plenty of new services to help students even without access to the physical library.]

Some small things that are easily overlooked come to play too. Having a clean quiet working space is very important for many students, and some students who stay at home say they can’t focus the same while at home. Too many noises and distractions has been hard on many students who can’t as easily find a quiet distraction-free place to study. 

In a recent interview with faculty from the University of Regina, students were told that despite tuition not increasing, and all classes being moved to online, the University will be lucky to refrain from going into a deficit this year. This was cited for various reasons, the first of which being that despite the fact the University of Regina isn’t being used to its full capacity it still has upkeep costs, which don’t go away even when it’s not in use. The second reason is that the University of Regina is losing some of their international students who pay, on average, 3 times the amount that domestic students pay.

 [Update: The movement of classes to an online format has also been an expensive investment for the university in regards to purchasing new licenses and ensuring the servers can handle the increased online demand.]

 While the university could not say whether or not enrollment would be down next year,  some students have said they’ve decided not to enroll, opting for a gap year instead. Some are doing this because they have been out of work and can’t afford to go to University this year. Others have simply said that they can’t learn as well through online classes. Some students require a more-hands on approach. Others have said Zoom causes them to zone ou, or gives them headaches after long periods of time using it. Others have cited technical issues, such as professors trying to record unfocussed whiteboards through the lens of a laptop webcam. Some students have also said that professors are not taking teaching as seriously over Zoom, that they will get more easily off track, or won’t explain or answer questions as well as they would in in-person classes.

And some professors are not happy either. While the university did hold crash-courses for many professors some still say that Zoom classes do not give the same level of teaching as in-person classes could. One teacher also said that they were feeling burnt out” from teaching through the pandemic, and they were worried that it could be negatively affecting their teaching.

In comparison, the University of Saskatchewan isn’t doing much better. In an email to their students they stated that tuition and fees for undergrad students would decrease by 0.2%, which calculates as only about $18. Many students are having issues with this.

In an interview, one student stated that due to losing their summer job, they aren’t making enough money, even while getting CERB payments. The proposed cuts” the University of Regina is proposing aren’t nearly enough to begin to cover everything. I barely have money for food and rent,” they said, which means I won’t be able to afford university classes in the fall”.

The Saskatchewan Government during this time has promised $1.5 million in financial aid for students with financial needs due to Covid-19. The funding is to be given out in one-time bursaries with amounts depending on each students’ individual circumstances. The University of Regina has also been asking for donations to its emergency fund, which also awards bursaries for students due to unforeseen circumstances such as a global pandemic. However, some students have pointed out that these emergency bursaries don’t apply to everyone, and many students who might be in need, might not qualify. It stings,” one student says, The U of R says they have thousands of dollars every year in bursaries that people don’t claim, and there are many people who could use that money but don’t qualify. Why isn’t the money used to lower tuition for everyone?”

[Update: Thomas Chase pointed out that the University as well as made available ~$300,000 in additional student aid for those in need.]

According to Maclean’s, as of 2018 the University of Regina had the 4th highest tuition in Canada, however they ranked only 22nd in regards to best universities in Canada.

Fall 2020 is still a fair distance in the future and some students are hoping to petition for tuition decreases before the fall semester. This tuition decrease would reflect the fact students are shorter on cash, and losing out on many of the university’s resources, which should be taken into account when charging tuition. The university has not concretely commented on a tuition decrease to date. 

Update:

In the last article on tuition we wrote “The university doesn’t appear to be planning on waving the approximately $67 online class fee, despite not providing alternative options for students. This will add up quickly since for many students since most classes are being taught online,” This information was in fact incorrect.

In a recent interview with the Provost Thomas Chase he explained that the CCE Online Material Fee is only being added to classes that are asynchronous. Any classes that meet on Zoom at a regular class time do not have that CCE Online Material Fee. So any regular class that wasn’t online prior to Covid-19 will not have any increased costs.

He also pointed out that counselling services and library services are available online at the University of Regina website, and the library has been adding plenty of new services to help students even without access to the physical library. The university as well has made available ~$300,000 in additional student aid for those in need.

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