May 5, 2020

Provost Ka Yee Lee Says University Is “Unable to Reduce Tuition for All Students”

A protestor at a UCFT May 1 demonstration.

A protestor at a UCFT May 1 demonstration.

Aviva Waldman / The Chicago Maroon

Provost Ka Yee Lee responded to demands made by student group UChicago for Fair Tuition (UCFT) last Friday, opening a channel of communication between organizers and administration. At least 200 students continue to withhold tuition in support of UCFT’s calls for a 50 percent tuition reduction, greater budget transparency, tuition relief for advanced doctoral students, and reinstating part-time status.

Lee told UCFT that the administration was not considering universal tuition reductions. The Office of the Provost’s website posted an announcement to similar effect on Thursday. The message suggested students consider using the Financial Hardship Form to apply for a payment extensions, applying to the bursar’s emergency assistance program (which does not assist with costs related to tuition), contacting the Financial Aid Office, or taking a leave of absence.

“The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the University has been unprecedented,” the Provost’s Office wrote in the statement. “Because our focus must be on continuing to fulfill the University’s core research and education mission, we are unable to reduce tuition for all students regardless of individual financial means.”

However, organizers hope to push administrators to accede to their demands that the University publicize its budget and make part-time status an option again for students. Part-time status, which was eliminated in 2018, allowed students who needed fewer than three classes to graduate to finish their requirements at a significantly reduced tuition rate.

UCFT also hopes to pressure administrators to provide grants for international and graduate students in financial distress. Much of UCFT’s tuition reduction campaign has centered on the crisis experienced by these students, who are not guaranteed that aid will meet their “demonstrated financial need” as domestic undergraduates are. The group has also set up a “strike fund” to cover possible late fees for those who are striking, which has so far raised approximately $2,500.

Organizers hope to plan a meeting with Lee to discuss their concerns directly.