Coronavirus stagnates university tuition rates and finances

Jessica Orlando, Contributor

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, health and safety precautions are being upheld at Oakland University (OU), requiring that most classes be held online. With the changes, students have asked why OU had chosen to not cut tuition rates in the 2020-2021 academic year. 

The ongoing presence of the coronavirus had led to problems for universities around the country. With the shutdown of the country in March of 2020, universities faced decisions on the safety of both their faculty and student population for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

It is estimated that more than half of all colleges across the United States have introduced the idea of lowering tuition costs for the current 2020-2021 academic year. The College Board of Research on higher education revealed that the average college tuition cost had dropped by 5%in the current academic year for private colleges and a 4% decrease for the average in-state tuition and fees as well as a 6% decrease for out-of-state tuition and fees in trends compared to the 2019 academic year. 

Schools also were reported to have either suspended their planned tuition hikes or offered tuition discounts in light of the impact of the pandemic on families. 

Even though many colleges around America have committed to reducing tuition, others chose to leave tuition costs and fees the same for the current academic year.

Oakland University is one of the colleges who had made the decision to freeze tuition pricing. They had chosen not to increase tuition and fees, but had maintained the same pricing as previous academic years. 

“The process of developing the fiscal year 2021 budget was well under way before the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the nation,” said Michele Knox, A.V.P. of the Budget and Financial Planning Department at OU. 

Tuition still remains at $13,934 for in-state students and $24,708 for out-of-state students, according to the OU Student Financial Services page. 

Knox reiterated that because of the economic hardship presented by the pandemic, students were notified before the budget was finalized that there would be no increase in tuition pricing or fees at OU for the fall. 

A number of factors play into the tuition and fees of Oakland, such as room and board and facility maintenance. 

According to Knox, 60-70% of university spending goes to salaries and benefits for faculty. Even with the switch of in-class learning to online learning, financial obligations were not reduced. 

“In fact, there were many unexpected incremental costs that were incurred in transitioning Oakland to online instruction; some of these costs included technology for remote classes, training for faculty not familiar with online instruction, and health and safety expenses for both campuses,” Knox said. 

Knox declined the possibility of a decrease, but acknowledged the hardships and sensitivity the pandemic has brought upon both faculty and students alike. 

To learn more about the CARES Act, students can visit both the Department of Treasury and IRS pages available online. Also, to be informed about coronavirus updates at OU, students can visit the Graham Center’s tab on the OU webpage.