College students pay full price for modified college experience.
By Olivia Buckley
Across the nation students are outraged that the reduced quality of their education during the Covid-19 pandemic has not spurred a reduction in tuition. “The quality of learning has diminished, you have to admit by some percentage, so there has to be some sort of compensation…” explains James Watt, a Junior at Saint Mary’s college of California.” These sentiments were echoed by Saint Mary’s student Sam Dixon, an Integral major, class of 2021, “Stepping away from the context of SMC, it would never make sense to pay such a high financial price for such a diminishing return.”
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a national shift that moved class meetings to an online format held on platforms such as Zoom and Skype. ” For many students, distance education means extended periods of time with their laptops or other electronic device; a reduction in resources such as constant face to face contact with professors, tutors, advisors, counselors, and other faculty members; and waning access to facilities such as libraries, classrooms, recreational centers, and a community of students.
Watt contends that the move to online education eroded the benefits of St. Mary’s College, “Saint Mary’s benefits from good relationships between student and teacher because of intimate class sizes and Zoom takes away from that relationship”. “What we’re paying for is the culture and the facilities and being face to face and we don't have that when we’re online” explained Blake Moser, a senior from Saint Mary’s College of California. Moser is among many students who are struggling with the idea of paying full tuition. Dixon explained “I do not think the cost of college is worth the current investment while class is being conducted online.”
It’s not just students who are frustrated, but parents as well. “They should have more communication with families and the people paying for college to find out where and how the money is being spent” explained Stacia Lemke, whose child attends Saint Mary’s College.
Aric Moirao, a senior at Saint Mary’s College and the senator for the class of 2021, explains how he is being proactive regarding this situation when he states, “During these times I am trying my best to advocate for the students through this hard time. Within Associated Students, trying to help students who expressed concerns during this time as well as trying to write resolutions to better our community. Personally, I have created a petition to advocate for the students after the tuition increase. This petition has received support from Associated Students, Academic Senate, and Staff Council.”
Saint Mary’s is not the only college that has students upset about tuition. University of Boulder, Colorado Vicky Hooper said of her campus’ tuition, “I think it's just a little bit frustrating and I don’t think I'm getting the same education as I do when I'm in person.” In fact, Hooper perceives a dip in the quality of education explaining “I don't think I'm learning as much online.” Kirby Bryant, a student at the University of Washington, explained that his tuition has bought him an education that includes watching his professors lecture on videos that were recorded years earlier. He explained “I would like to see professors not use pre-recorded lectures and pass them off as teaching. I need something more personal.”
After multiple attempts at contacting Saint Mary’s College of California, Megan Mustain, Vice Provost for Student Academics and Dean of the Core, gave the perspective of the school on increasing tuition. She states,“We simply cost more because our cost of operations is higher. We’ve put in a lot of energy, particularly over the summer our faculty went just crazy doing faculty development things to make Saint Mary’s as Saint Mary’s-y and Gael-y as a virtual environment could possibly be.We had intended to do salary increases along the lines of cost of labor increases in the Bay Area. We haven’t been able to do that to the extent we had hoped to.”
Megan explains the question on Saint Mary’s administration’s minds when deciding to increase the tuition saying, “How are we going to make it through this year with the other thing that changed on my spreadsheets? The cost of maintaining Saint Mary’s campus and its employees and the students who are going to be living on campus under COVID.”
As bad as the education quality may be, it is still better than the many who cannot access the online tools or lack the skills to use them properly. Although the frustrations of the students are valid, the faculty and staff at Saint Mary’s college have been working tirelessly to create an online environment where the SMC community can be the best that it can be.
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Ryan Ford '23,