Letter to the Editor: In response to “An open letter to UMN Twin-Cities campus students and prospective students”

We’re paying for more than a degree; we’re paying for the on-campus experience. If we cannot safely be on campus, we should not have to pay full tuition.


Letter to the Editor

As a student who made the sudden switch from in-person learning to remote classes last semester, I can confidently say that online learning is not the same as the in-person experience, and it should not cost the same. Over the summer, the University of Minnesota was vague in regards to its reopening plan. In spite of knowing that we would inevitably move to online instruction, the University kept false hope for normalcy so that many students were unable to make an informed decision about whether online school at a four-year university was the right fit for them. The University’s strategy was quite antagonistic in limiting the amount of deferrals and leaves of absence with the optimistic and ambitious (and vague) reopening plan, while also refusing to give students a tuition discount or refund for the switch to online learning. 

I asked some students in an anonymous survey what they thought about this issue. Unanimously, students I interviewed did not see an equal value between online and in-person instruction. They thought that a discount or refund would be fair, although the amount varied by student. Here are some of the responses:

Is remote learning the same value as in-person classes? What might you be missing out on remotely that changes the value?

“No, remote learning has less value than in-person. Students are missing out on social interactions and bonding, as well as physical materials and the classrooms we pay for the upkeep of.”

“Remote learning is NOT as valuable as in-person classes. In-person classes are so much more than in-person instruction. It’s student organizations, on-campus job opportunities; it’s socializing with classmates; it’s having a recreation center and sports.”

“Remote learning itself can complete about the same function as an in-person lecture but fails to reach the value of being in person for courses such as labs, research and field work.”

“No, remote learning is NOT as valuable as in-person classes. It is a low-quality education. Few people I know still learned effectively once instruction became virtual.”

What do you think would be an appropriate discount/refund?

“20% reduction and all lab fees waived.”

“At most 50% off tuition and full refund for room/board for people who aren’t moving back to campus.”

“Last semester they gave around $500-600 as a general refund. That is what I would expect this semester as well.”

“I think tuition at the very least needs to be 30% cheaper. Considering all of the tools we lose that are present on campus, the structure of the classroom with a professor present and holding each student accountable.”

“We should receive a 30% refund.”

Students are the most impacted by these decisions but have almost no voice in that process. While the intentions are to have equally rigorous and valuable online education, that is not the outcome. Online instruction is not the same. We’re paying for more than a degree; we’re paying for the on-campus experience. If we cannot safely be on campus, we should not have to pay full tuition.

This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for style and clarity; it was written in response to a previously published letter to the editor.

This letter was submitted by Savannah Wery, a student at the University of Minnesota studying for her master’s of education in social studies education.