Students shouldn’t shoulder the financial burden of remote learning

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As a result of COVID-19, students are facing cancelled internships and lost jobs. Now, they must shoulder the burden of regular tuition fees in the fall—despite classes going online.

At a Board of Trustees meeting in May, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green said the University expects to maintain its regular tuition fees in the fall. He cited concerns of reduced enrollment, particularly from international students.

While The Journal Editorial Board realizes the University will inevitably suffer as physical distancing policies keep students from campus, it questions why students are the ones shouldering the financial burden in the first place.

Like anyone else, students and their families are feeling the economic effects of the pandemic, struggling with lay-offs and reduced income. The University has even acknowledged this in making bursaries available to students suffering financially as a result of the pandemic.  

These awards, however, average at a mere $800 for domestic, undergraduate students. Regular tuition is an added expense some may not be able to afford in full. A remote semester also poses problems for students who might not have access to adequate technology.

During the pandemic, students need the University to be their advocate. It’s shown itself to be the opposite. 

While the AMS released a student survey about the fall term and Rector Sam Hiemstra is advocating for reduced tuition, the University failed to consult students before making the decision to maintain tuition fees for the fall. 

Instead of weighing its options and taking student input into consideration, the University immediately turned to maintaining tuition costs. In doing so, it failed to acknowledge students’ own financial losses as a result of the pandemic.

A transition to remote learning in the fall term also raises the question of quality.

In March, in-person classes were abruptly suspended. What followed were hastily prepared online courses, mostly consisting of PowerPoint presentations and self-learning. While Green acknowledged students deserve higher quality classes for the fall, he didn’t provide details about what that will look like.

The University needs to give students a clear picture of what their online term will look like before expecting them to pay for it. Queen’s should also be accommodating of students who have the added expense of securing appropriate technology.

Even then, online classes can never replace the in-person experience.

If students are expected to shoulder this burden, they shouldn’t have to do it alone. The government needs to acknowledge the difficult financial position students are in and subsidize tuition. 

Just  because the University is suffering doesn’t make it the students’ responsibility to shoulder the burden of its lost income—especially when students are suffering themselves.

—Journal Editorial Board

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