The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on just about every facet of human life, and college life is no exception. As institutions have worked hard to develop and implement new strategies to integrate social distancing and e-learning on campus, other aspects have inevitably had to change as well. Parents and college-bound students may be wondering what this means for college tuition, the greatest college expense.

Online Learning vs. In-Person Classes

There are a lot of expectations involved when paying for a college education. Face-to-face interactions are much more effective for many students when it comes to learning material. Everything from body language and mannerisms to breaking out into physical groups with your peers adds to the experience. It’s also much easier to clarify any questions or concerns as they come up. Both professors and other students are accessible, allowing incredible networking opportunities to present themselves naturally.

When shifting to an online structure, the loss of in-person attention from professors is a severe detriment. While most millennials and Gen Z are comfortable with digital communication – 88% have some online presence – learning through the digital space is much different. As all the resources and structure move to an online platform, students are obligated to significantly increase personal responsibility as they navigate their schedules without real guidance. The burden of seeking out networking opportunities or making requests for assistance is entirely on the student. For students with an unreliable Internet connection or outdated computers, the process can be even more difficult.

With so many challenges and losses to a traditional college education, it’s natural for families to assume that tuition costs should be lowered.

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What Does This Mean for Tuition?

In multiple cases, students and their families have vocally protested college costs during the pandemic via online forums or rallied to sign petitions calling for tuition cuts and refunds. But are the colleges responding? On an individual basis, the decision to make any tuition changes varies from college to college. However, as more and more colleges shift to online learning to accommodate the safety precautions necessary during a pandemic, there is a growing trend of adjustments made to lower tuition costs. While many colleges have opted to cut expenses by 10%, some have reduced tuition by 30%.

Other colleges have chosen to examine other ways of accommodating students’ financial burdens during these unprecedented times, such as freezing tuition, deferring payments, canceling or refunding fees for student activities and housing, and even offering substantially higher scholarships.

The biggest challenge that colleges face is that many cannot afford to reduce tuition, as they struggle to continue paying staff wages amidst the pandemic, including members whose services are no longer needed. Despite no longer having students on campus, universities still must cover their vendor contracts.

The Future of College Tuition

As the pandemic continues, universities will likely find new ways to adapt and accommodate students on campus with new strategies to keep students safe or reevaluate their budgets and lower tuitions to continue attracting new students.

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