UChicago Should Lower Tuition for Spring 2020

After shortening the Spring 2020 quarter and transitioning to distance learning, the University is unable to offer students the same quantity or quality of education, and should lower tuition accordingly.

By Sophie Rogers

The immense privilege and delight of a University of Chicago education only rests partly in lectures and textbook learning. Rather, our tuition buys us access to discourse, community, and collaboration with peers and leaders in a broad array of fields, not to mention the resources of a research institution with which to conduct projects and exercise our curiosity and creativity. It buys us access to a crucible of people, projects, and ideas we would not have found otherwise and platforms on which to develop academic and professional identities.

Now, in light of the decision that only nine weeks of class will be provided during spring 2020, rather than 10, it has become an unignorable reality that this quarter at the University of Chicago promises neither the quantity nor quality of education we expected—and paid—to receive. Although we deeply appreciate the school’s efforts to provide as much and as excellent of a quality of an education it can in this time of uncertainty and isolation, we believe it is unreasonable and unjust to expect individual students and families, who are bearing the brunt of the economic impact of a likely impending recession, to pay the full cost of tuition. Below is our request to the administration, in light of these realities, to decrease tuition in this time of crisis.

To whom it may concern, 

With all due respect, we urge the school to substantially decrease tuition for the final quarter of the 2019–20 academic year as a vast number of students and their families will soon be out of employment and savings. 

At this time, most of the campus and dorms need not be rigorously maintained. No events will be held, nor speakers hosted. The world-class education that consists in having opportunities to work and interact with academics and peers (not to mention the vast numbers of innovators, creators, doctors, organizers, and more that congregate on our campus) will no longer be provided. Additionally, now only 90 percent of the class time that we will be paying for will be provided—not to forget, on a new platform that will take time for us to learn. On the quarter system, no loss of time is insignificant.

Furthermore, many students rely on on-campus employment for both school-related costs and basic living costs. Some can leave campus and some cannot; either way, the jobs upon which students rely to manage their financial commitments will no longer be available. Luckily, the University will not be spending money on wages for these jobs, which further enables the University to reduce the cost of tuition either for all students or specifically for those students who would have been employed.

This is also coming on the heels of a recent, unpopular decision to withdraw the option of part-time study, which many other institutions offer. A significant number of juniors and seniors had planned to take advantage of this option when we enrolled. Furthermore, many seniors, up to one-fourth of all students, have jobs or post-graduate programs lined up and do not realistically have the choice to postpone their education to a more convenient time. Given that the school has prevented us from choosing flexible plans of study that fit our financial situations, which is its prerogative, we believe that the University, nevertheless, has a responsibility to reduce tuition at a time when many of us would prefer options other than full-time study.

We are getting far less than 90 percent of our normal education, and, doubtless, families that rely on small business, service-industry and other precarious work will be hit far harder than a school with a multibillion-dollar endowment. As our education is dropping in quality and in quantity—by more than 10 percent—we believe that tuition should fall accordingly. It should be noted, we resolutely do not wish for this to come at the cost of instructor and staff pay. If there is a genuine trade-off to be made there, we would like the decision-making process to be open and transparent to the entire University community.

Thank you for your consideration and for your efforts in combating the virus during these tough times, as well as maintaining as much of a campus community as possible. 

The official petition, which has been signed by over 500 community members, can be found here.