As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, many universities are evaluating the risks of either bringing students back to campus for a mix of online and in-person classes or committing to a full year of online classes. In conjunction with the question of how to continue the caliber of education expected from universities in the United States, the universities have been debating tuition prices and whether it should be adjusted in accordance with a shift in learning. This past Monday, July 6th, Harvard University announced that the university would continue to charge the full tuition cost of $49,653 for the academic year.
In addition to the full tuition cost, Harvard announced that all classes would be held in an online format for the 2020-2021 school year. This decision has left many students in a state of disarray as they are questioning their ability to pay the full tuition price. To accommodate for the economic impact of COVID-19 on families, Harvard will continue to offer financial aid with some families paying $24,827 in tuition per semester rather than the full $49,653, as the Harvard Financial Aid website states.
The decision to charge full tuition, while not directly addressed by the university, is most likely due to a forecasted loss of revenue during this upcoming school year. In an email to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the university announced that they plan to allow forty percent of the student body to return to school, primarily comprising of freshmen and seniors who apply to return. However, the sixty percent who will not return to campus will consequently not pay the fees for room and board, which accounts for a significant amount of revenue for the university. Furthermore, with the Ivy League’s announcement that all athletics are to be postponed until January 2021, a loss in revenue was to be expected. This may have contributed to Harvard’s decision to charge the full cost, however other factors are also present.
The announcement by the university created controversy across the nation, as other Ivy League universities such as Princeton lowered their tuition by ten percent for this upcoming school year, whereas Harvard continues to charge full price. Students have raised concern as to the disparity in the quality of education in an online setting versus in-person, and are subsequently calling for the tuition price to be modified to more accurately reflect the education they are receiving.
After three months of online learning in the U.S, it is evident from numerous studies that learning online is not as effective as learning in an in-person environment. This is why the decision to charge full tuition as if this school year is no different from those in the past is so shocking. As both teachers and students continue to adapt to online learning, the process will become more efficient, and will hopefully lower that gap in quality of education as the year progresses, thus justifying the decision to charge full tuition in terms of education.