Money is tight right now. With many students losing on- and off-campus jobs due to closures surrounding COVID-19, not receiving the government-issued stimulus check and continuing to have to pay rent and loans, Loyola should be doing what it can to ease the financial burden.
In a letter from President Jo Ann Rooney to the faculty and staff of Loyola, she outlined steps the university has already taken in regards to student financials. This included reimbursing students who were studying abroad, refunding housing and meal plans and organizing emergency funds for “critical student needs.”
The message continued saying supporting the students and their financial needs are “at the forefront of our decision-making.” For a university that claims to keep its students as the top priority, Loyola seems to be doing the bare minimum.
If Loyola truly wanted to support its students, it would provide some type of tuition refund for spring semester and freeze tuition for the 2020-21 school year — like we suggested earlier this year, even before the coronavirus pandemic was a factor.
A tuition refund is what’s fair — for most students, this isn’t what they signed up for. They thought they were paying for the hands-on experiences, in-person debates and face-to-face connections that come with a normal class. They wanted the experiences that online classes just can’t provide, as we pointed out in a previous editorial. Some students even started a petition calling for a tuition refund because of the change.
Despite this, Loyola maintains there is no need to lower the tuition.
“The same high caliber faculty that were teaching in-person courses, are now teaching those courses online,” Bursar Office representative John Campbell said in an email to The Phoenix. “Students will continue to earn credits and degrees they’ve been working toward, and maintain academic continuity.”
While it’s true those same faculty members are teaching the classes, the courses don’t look the same. This is especially true for classes that thrive on in-person demos and hands-on learning, some of which come with additional fees.
A variety of classes at Loyola charge a fee for materials and the space used, such as science labs and studio art classes. A biology lab fee costs $155 for a semester-long class and a fine arts studio fee costs $70, according to LOCUS, but students haven’t seen any of that money back either.
Loyola refunded students nearly half of the student development fee, which funds on-campus activities, and room and board charges. Wouldn’t it make sense for these fees to be refunded as well?
A portion of a lab fee might not make or break the bank for many people, but that money back could help pay another month’s rent. It could go toward groceries to get you through another two weeks of sheltering in place. It could chip away at student loan debt. When we’re living in times as uncertain as these, every little bit counts.
Loyola announced Thursday a new program offering a scholarship to this year’s Loyola graduates covering 50 percent of tuition for certain certificate and master’s programs at the university. This is a good start, but the current undergraduate students need some financial support, too.
Because we have no idea what’ll be coming next — when people can return to their jobs, when students can return to campuses — Loyola should also freeze tuition for the 2020-21 academic year.
Loyola is currently set to raise tuition costs 3.1 percent. It has raised tuition between 2.4 and 4 percent every year since the 2016-17 academic year.
Schools around the country, including locally at DePaul University and University of Chicago, have decided to halt a tuition increase because of the economic impact of COVID-19.
“We hope our decision helps reduce the financial barrier to a high-quality graduate education,” DePaul told its students in an email obtained by The Phoenix. “In these uncertain times, one thing you can be certain of is our commitment to your success.”
Loyola has yet to comment on specifics of the possibility of a tuition freeze instead saying, “The university remains in the midst of operating, planning and preparing for all eventual COVID-19 scenarios and related questions,” in an email to The Phoenix.
We acknowledge that nearly all people and institutions are facing financial burdens right now — Loyola needs to have the money to open up its doors once it’s safe to do so. But this shouldn’t be at the cost of its students.