No, Universities Aren’t Going to Cut Tuition for Online Classes

Cut Tuition for Online Classes
Find your tape. You’re going to need that $100.

As a parent of a college student, I’m very much attuned to the facts and fears surrounding campus reopening plans for fall 2020. And as an admissions and higher ed writer/veteran, I’m very aware of the anger over tuition costs as well. Every school has its own plan and variables for handling returning students. So much depends on campus locations and local infection rates, and many classes are remaining online for the time being. And students are checking schedules only to find most, if not all, of their classes will still be held online. So then what happens to those tuition bills that are coming up soon? There’s a lot of people upset that they’ll be paying the same tuition rates for classes held entirely online. Why can’t colleges cut tuition for online classes?!

Basically, You Don’t Want Them To

And I’m here to say: They can’t. I’m sorry. Honestly. But that tuition is not going to get discounted.

You might have been ok with not getting a cut last spring, if you were a student who was sent home. But why not now? They’ve had months to plan!

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Universities aren’t going to say the reasons out loud. They might say “there will be no reduction in tuition” but they’re not going to single out out-of-state students vs in-state, or change rates. Because universities are not set up to discount, well, anything, especially not spur of the moment. They rely on that money. It’s been “spent” long before the coronavirus came to town. They put their budgets together YEARS in advance. And so discounting anything isn’t a possibility.

And importantly, you don’t want them to.

The Slippery Slope

Here’s how the “cutting tuition because we’re all online” maze works out, in the long run and big picture.

  1. Due to the pandemic, everything moves online for everyone’s safety.
  2. Colleges think “sure, we’ll cut tuition.”
  3. Colleges then can’t pay for their staff, professors, or all those buildings on campus. Or their power bills, loans, or new construction.
  4. They lose those people and buildings and then students too.
  5. The colleges are then not as attractive to new students, and they drop in rankings. People stop applying.
  6. Finally, your degree isn’t as worth as much as it is now or could be.

That’s incredibly simplistic, yes. But that’s the truth of it, all boiled down. Colleges and universities have budgeted what you’re paying them against all of the things they offer (whether you can actually use them or not) and your name on that diploma, under theirs. You are paying for an education, no matter how the university deems that education will be provided, now or in the future. To cut tuition for online classes is to cut, well, everything.

Is it all overpriced? That is an entirely different question. It’s also one I think more people will be asking loudly over the coming months. A “hybrid” education is, indeed, a valid college education. But I digress…

But What About My Experience?

The “college experience” is, in marketing terms, a “value-add.” It’s the stuff they literally can’t put a price tag on. The traditional college experience, classes AND all the other stuff, isn’t what you’re paying for. You are paying for the education and the diploma.

You will remember the other stuff more, of course. But they’re not charging you for it.

Hopefully, eventually, we’ll be able to go back to “normal.” But that isn’t going to happen for the foreseeable, plan-able, future. But once you have that diploma on your wall, and the ability to tell your future employers how you not only survived, but thrived during your COVID-19-seasoned education, it’ll be worth it.

So don’t ask them to cut tuition for online classes. Take a deep breath, and learn how to kick some online butt instead. Be a partner with your professors. You and your college community are all in these times together (just apart).


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