Students express concern about the cost of online classes

Following an atypical tuition freeze for the 2020-2021 school year, some students still bode financial concerns as September approaches. 

Sixty-eight percent of Oakland University students report that three or more of their classes have been moved online (16% with two, 10% with one and 5% with no newly online classes), according to a recent poll from The Oakland Post. While many classes are pushed online to abide by COVID-19 safety precautions, Student Congress President Ethan Bradley admits that some students are skeptical of the value of online classes opposed to in-person. 

“I have heard a lot of students are upset about it [the tuition freeze]… the perception is the services that the university is providing are not going to be of their typical quality this year,” Bradley said. “Students seem to feel that that should be reflected by tuition.”

Online classes pose an array of challenges including living off campus with less than ideal study spaces or simply a poor internet connection, according to Vice President of Student Congress, Annabella Jankowski. Aside from technical complications, some students may not feel as comfortable in social distanced classrooms. Even amounting to these standards, Oakland University had to pull strings to allow a tuition freeze — an additional reduction to cope with the challenges of online classes or adjustment to distanced classrooms doesn’t seem to be in the cards. 

Approving the tuition freeze led OU to withdraw roughly six million dollars from reserve funds and salary cuts for some of the OU community. President Ora Pescovitz announced in an official email that the necessary salary cuts included, “…reductions for executives and Deans range from 3-5% with the President taking a 20% reduction.”

University officials reconsidered these salaries to prepare for the fall semester amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, but there still may be further adjustments in funds needed for the school year. For instance, OU housing refunded many of the over 3,000 students that were living on campus when the university converted entirely online for the remainder of the winter semester in March, leaving OU with less income than usual. The impending semester could offer similar complications, as well, because some students may opt to live off-campus with increased online classes.  

“I feel that it appears to be an unfortunate necessity… Unfortunately, from the student perspective that has different effects than how it was intended,” Bradley said. 

Oakland University hasn’t offered any other additional resources for the entire student body this year — like a university-wide tuition decrease. There are, however, individual options to help students who are financially struggling because of the pandemic, like the COVID-19 relief fund and on campus food pantries.

The COVID-19 relief fund does not yet have an expiration so that opportunity will be available for the school year. The campus food pantry is located on the bottom floor of the Oakland Center in room 49G and will operate Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. for interested students this fall. 

Jankowski reiterated that OU Student Congress welcomes anyone that “wants to voice their concerns” at their general meetings at 4 p.m. on Mondays. If there are more alternate financial routes to take, a conversation is where action could start. 

Oakland University hasn’t been able to please all students with a tuition freeze, but a school year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic will be riddled with changes and updates — how those changes and updates will affect returning students is yet to be determined. 

“For the students that are concerned about the principle of the matter, I don’t feel like there was much else the university could do, but for students that are struggling financially as a result of this, there are some other resources,” Bradley said.