UC Irvine student Rosie Oganesian organized a petition drive for tuition refunds.

University of California Irvine freshman Rose Oganesian understands the public health reasons to switch from in-person to online courses at universities across California during the coronavirus crisis. But she doesn’t want to get charged the same price.

So she has organized an online petition campaign that seeks at least a partial tuition refund for students, whether they start their spring quarter later this month, as she will, or already are in the midst of spring semester. Oganesian and others think the tuition for UC Irvine’s spring quarter should be cut in half. That would mean a possible refund of at least $2,100 in UC systemwide costs — perhaps more if campus fees are included.

“It’s not fair that we should be charged full tuition. We pay money for going to classes, seeing professors and having one to one meetings during office hours,” said Oganesian, a biology major from Los Angeles. The online experience is a lesser one and should not cost as much as regular classes, she said, adding: “If I had wanted to go to an online school, I would have done that.”

More than 6,700 people have signed the online petition being posted by change.org. It originally was aimed at UC Irvine but was amended to include all public campuses in California.

But, so far, the students don’t seem to be convincing UC, the California State University or community colleges.

The petition also seeks refunds or discounts for university dorms and residences and dining plans along with mandatory fees for recreation and student centers that may go unused during this emergency period. Officials at both UC and CSU report that they are considering ways to refund some of those costs especially since many campuses are urging students to leave housing facilities if they have someplace safe to get to without further health risks.

But tuition itself is another matter.

UC Irvine spokesman Tom Vasich said there are no plans now to refund or reduce tuition. Even with online classes, students “will still be getting instruction from University of California instructors and it’s a University of California grade that counts toward their diploma,” he said.

The nine-campus UC system issued a statement that the university “will continue to charge tuition and mandatory system and campus-based fees for all enrolled students.” Even students from other states and nations who are charged much higher tuition will not receive discounts. Campuses can make their own decisions regarding other fees. And students will be allowed to cancel housing and dining contracts and receive a prorated refund, the statement said.

Tuition is the same for online and in-person courses at California public universities and most nonprofit private schools during the regular school year. The same practice can be found at colleges across the country. California college officials insist that the online classes provide the same material, ample opportunities for interaction with faculty and the same diploma credits as more traditional classes do even if the delivery methods are very different and some students and professors miss the face-to-face connections.

UC undergraduate tuition and mandatory systemwide fees for state residents total $12,570 a year, or $4,190 a quarter term (the calendar that seven UC campuses follow) and $6,285 a semester at Berkeley and Merced. Students from outside California face $43,000 annual tuition bills at UC.

At the 23-campus California State University campuses, all on the semester system, annual systemwide tuition and fees total $5,742 and are $2,871 per semester.

Campus fees can add more than $1,000 a year at both systems, while dorms and dining plans can be $15,000 a year extra.

At Cal State, tuition refunds or discounts are not being considered “at this point,” said spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp. All its campuses are transitioning to fully online education for various lengths of time. “As of right now, the campuses are working diligently to the best of their abilities to provide the highest levels of instruction. We are not in the position where a tuition refund would be appropriate to discuss,” he said.

Campuses are offering help to students who might not have a computer or need to upgrade to a tablet to be able to take the online courses. They are also keeping wi-fi services available on all campuses so students can potentially find spaces with enough safe social distances to take classes and study if need be, he said.

Michael Wiafe, president of the Cal State Student Association, representing students at all CSU campuses, said he opposes tuition refunds. “As long as students are able to access their course, regardless of their physical presence, I do not believe that is necessary and it would most likely have devastating impacts on the institution,” he said in an email response to EdSource questions. A loss of tuition revenues would especially hurt after what Wiafe, a senior at San Diego State, described as “the disinvestment in higher education over the past two decades.”

UC San Diego senior Anya Sinha has the opposite opinion. A U.S. citizen who was raised in India, she said she receives a $6,000 federal Pell Grant but that her family has to pay the rest of the $43,000 tuition she is charged as an out-of-state resident. She signed the petition seeking a partial tuition refund because she feels online education is not as productive as regular classes. “I don’t see why I should be paying full price for online classes if you don’t get the same kind of learning,” she said. A psychology major and theater minor, she said she is particularly worried about how her theater classes, which are supposed to include live performances, can be conducted online.

As most of California’s community colleges plan to convert to online classes soon, efforts will be made to help students stay enrolled and continue their education, according to Paul Feist, statewide vice chancellor for communications. The cost per academic unit will remain $46 per academic unit whether the course is in-person or online, he said. But districts can reimburse fees for students who choose not to stay enrolled, and, he added, “we are working with the Department of Finance to explore additional measures to ensure reimbursement is available for all students who withdraw.”

Private colleges and universities in California appear to be preparing to refund students for unused housing and dining plans but not for tuition, whether classes go online or not. For example, at Pomona College, a policy states: “If students plan on completing their courses, we do not plan on refunding tuition and fees.” A Stanford University website posted this question and answer: “Will tuition be reduced since classes are online only? No, we are not going to reduce tuition.”

Coincidentally, the UC regents on Thursday are scheduled to discuss and possibly approve a plan that would raise tuition in the fall by $606, or 4.8 percent, for incoming freshmen from California and then more for the next four following freshmen classes. Current students would be exempted.

At CSU, some trustees have suggested in the past that a tuition hike might be needed but the agenda for their March 24 meeting does not include any such action.

To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.

Share Article

Comments (15)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * *

Comments Policy

We welcome your comments. All comments are moderated for civility, relevance and other considerations. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. Jessica Wallner 5 months ago5 months ago

    All CSU campuses are not on the semester system. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is on the quarter system and tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 year were $3,217 per quarter for a total of $9,651, significantly higher than those on the semester system. And paying the same price for online instruction and in-person instruction is completely inequitable. For the spring semester, students were still charged fees for services that weren't even operating or they … Read More

    All CSU campuses are not on the semester system. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is on the quarter system and tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 year were $3,217 per quarter for a total of $9,651, significantly higher than those on the semester system. And paying the same price for online instruction and in-person instruction is completely inequitable.

    For the spring semester, students were still charged fees for services that weren’t even operating or they were unable to use (athletics, the recreation and fitness center, etc). At the very least, those fees should not be charged in the fall.

  2. Sonia Nava 6 months ago6 months ago

    Desai Law Firm, P.C. is currently investigating these claims. Please contact us today at (949) 614-5830.

  3. Lisa 6 months ago6 months ago

    As a student at the Berkley College in New York City, it has been difficult to have been forced to take my classes online, with no teacher to assist us doing our work online, without knowing if the work is even going to our teachers, unable to take our finals before the assignments are closed, not even knowing if we're returning to our school, without proper guidance using programs like turnitin, which my computer won't … Read More

    As a student at the Berkley College in New York City, it has been difficult to have been forced to take my classes online, with no teacher to assist us doing our work online, without knowing if the work is even going to our teachers, unable to take our finals before the assignments are closed, not even knowing if we’re returning to our school, without proper guidance using programs like turnitin, which my computer won’t support.

    Missing out on graduation or meetings as a disabled student who is required to take my exams with a proctor, it’s been hard to do my final exams or being able to do my work not knowing my teacher’s email so I can send my completed work to him so I don’t receive the deserved credit or grades.

  4. Mike 7 months ago7 months ago

    Colleges and Universities should absolutely refund portions of unused student fees, room and board, and tuition to their students. I am appalled that anyone would suggest otherwise; especially now that policy makers approved another corporate bailout worth $2 trillion of taxpayer dollars. Since the 2008 recession, corporate America has received multiple staggering bailouts and tax breaks that benefited mostly the wealthy. What did corporate executives do with the money? They instituted huge stock buybacks to … Read More

    Colleges and Universities should absolutely refund portions of unused student fees, room and board, and tuition to their students. I am appalled that anyone would suggest otherwise; especially now that policy makers approved another corporate bailout worth $2 trillion of taxpayer dollars.

    Since the 2008 recession, corporate America has received multiple staggering bailouts and tax breaks that benefited mostly the wealthy. What did corporate executives do with the money? They instituted huge stock buybacks to enrich themselves and their shareholders. Simultaneously, due to political pressure, artificially low interest rates since 2008 have incentivized corporate America to double its leveraged debt.

    Did students benefit from these costly bailouts? No, the cost of education has steadily increased over two decades when adjusting for inflation. Who will eventually pay for our ballooning National debt? It would seem that nobody has the slightest idea, or continues to care despite very recent outrage from populist movements on the political right.

    Recently what many do seem to note is the unsustainably of over a trillion dollars of outstanding student loans saddling college graduates who have delayed significant life milestones in order to train for the next economy. It’s understood that this is a crisis; so for once do the right decision and give students back their money!

    A virtual education is not equivalent to learning on campus. It is a joke to assume otherwise. A typical online curriculum is tailored in advance to optimize its educational value. How is it possible to learn hands-on skills obtained in a lab or from dissecting a cadaver? Currently medical students are barred all patient contact. This step is currently necessary to slow the epidemic; however let’s not downplay the effect this is having on the educational system.

    Let’s not continue to plague our youth with the mistakes of previous generations. It’s no wonder younger generations are increasingly depressed and anxious. They’re now separated from friends, advisors, professors, yet still expected to study for exams and complete homework while the future the dreamed off dissolves in front of them.

  5. Noah 7 months ago7 months ago

    Yes, let's ask the weakest and most vulnerable in our society (students) to shoulder the cost of a crisis that comes as a direct consequence of a derelict older generation and their inept political institutions. Let's continue to cut every new generation down at the knees and see how much longer we last as a society. The greatest generation definitely suffered through incredible things. And they ultimately fought for FDR's New Deal, which, among so many … Read More

    Yes, let’s ask the weakest and most vulnerable in our society (students) to shoulder the cost of a crisis that comes as a direct consequence of a derelict older generation and their inept political institutions. Let’s continue to cut every new generation down at the knees and see how much longer we last as a society.

    The greatest generation definitely suffered through incredible things. And they ultimately fought for FDR’s New Deal, which, among so many other boomer perks, preserved the tuition-free cost of the UC system and a collective national ethos, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan. Mr/s. Bo Loney might take a harder look in the mirror before daring such contempt for the young minds of the future. There’s a reason UCs can cost 40K and the University of Phoenix is far less. Not to mention lab programs, medical programs, film schools, etc…

    Replies

    • Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

      I am not a boomer, so can save that for another day. WWI was fought by the lost generation. I think our most vulnerable population is our homeless and mentally ill. I'm not showing contempt. I merely think now is not the right time to be adding fuel to an out of control and deadly situation. Now is the time to work together and do our part as a whole society to … Read More

      I am not a boomer, so can save that for another day. WWI was fought by the lost generation. I think our most vulnerable population is our homeless and mentally ill.

      I’m not showing contempt. I merely think now is not the right time to be adding fuel to an out of control and deadly situation. Now is the time to work together and do our part as a whole society to minimize the impact on our health care system and lower the amount of people who become seriously ill and die.

  6. Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

    I mean, like really, a lot of us had great uncles that were signing up for WWI and in the trenches picking up actual pieces of human beings at 16 years of age. Seriously. Deal with what you have to right now. Which is not much in comparison. All you have to do is log in and be there for class.

    Replies

    • Terra 7 months ago7 months ago

      That is wholly untrue. I wish you were right, how I wish you were right. I have three years of online education prior to my UC education and the UCs did not prepare at all for this. "log in" is almost impossible, the system is down, or the professor doesn't know how to use it. I am completely at a loss for why so many professors insist on synchronous learning when the UC insisted student … Read More

      That is wholly untrue. I wish you were right, how I wish you were right. I have three years of online education prior to my UC education and the UCs did not prepare at all for this. “log in” is almost impossible, the system is down, or the professor doesn’t know how to use it. I am completely at a loss for why so many professors insist on synchronous learning when the UC insisted student return home. Most are now in totally different time zones, asynchronous delivery is easy and simply the best answer for the immediate response necessary.

      I am a senior, this is my last quarter, I as a woman in her late forties have spent much of my time learning new software – there is no excuse for not being capable of creating new lesson plans or learning software. I am older than 2/3rds of my professors. My department, English, has been the worst and there are no excuses.

      Make a powerpoint, record your voice, and deliver the damn information. Instead, they are passing on their own anxieties to us, and I can only imagine how the younger students feel, making our workload heavier than is OK to compensate, and no one is being held accountable. All the while we incur the costs. I hold the administration accountable, they ultimately did not prepare the faculty despite knowing this was happening (and fast), have not been transparent with students, and FYI Fall is going to be more of the same.

  7. Kelley Lara 7 months ago7 months ago

    As a parent of two UC students on two different campuses, I have great concern regarding the online education. It takes a special discipline to study, stay current and active with online classes. Not to mention the loss of peer to peer interaction, and many other resources readily utilized by students.

    Replies

    • Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

      Your adult age students should be responsible enough to handle this. Honestly. We are in an emergency situation. These complaints seem to me to be not offering any team work solutions and no bending of our first world privilege to our current dire situation. As a clerical person I contacted all the teachers in my circle and asked how I could help them today. Tomorrow I will be calling the district .

      • Bop Lop 4 months ago4 months ago

        Bo, your comments have not stood the test of time. "Dire Situation"? Not so much in California. The complete lack of preparation by the CSU system is like a giant Clown Nose on the face of the Regents. If I thought the Governor would appoint quality replacements, i would start a "resign" movement, but why bother? The travesty is the quality of instruction, when even available, was in the toilet. Mandatory, non-tuition Student Fees are … Read More

        Bo, your comments have not stood the test of time. “Dire Situation”? Not so much in California. The complete lack of preparation by the CSU system is like a giant Clown Nose on the face of the Regents. If I thought the Governor would appoint quality replacements, i would start a “resign” movement, but why bother?

        The travesty is the quality of instruction, when even available, was in the toilet. Mandatory, non-tuition Student Fees are huge, and completely indefensible in the face of closed campuses. Now that Fall Registration is upon us, they continue to soak our students with these same mandatory fees for which they are confident they will not be providing services. Beyond “Professor” expenses, there are vast sums of money spent on supporting “in class” instruction that are no longer being spent (of course, all the labor is probably being paid to stay home – gotta keep that union happy) but even just energy costs alone, could go to improving software or hiring consultants to manage and handle the transition with more finesse’…but again, gotta protect those union jobs at all costs.

        The Covid 19 situation is not an accurate comparison to WWII, period. If you believe it is, you have bought way too far into the media narrative instead of looking at the numbers for yourself.

  8. Rosemary Wrenn 7 months ago7 months ago

    As an instructor working to mindfully migrate my in-person courses to fully DE, I must say that the level of work is monumental. To create courses that are meaningful and robust in this modality, there is a tremendous amount of work and planning that must take place. I have been utilizing our learning management system (LMS) for all assignment submissions and even with that already set in my courses, I have been working nonstop since … Read More

    As an instructor working to mindfully migrate my in-person courses to fully DE, I must say that the level of work is monumental. To create courses that are meaningful and robust in this modality, there is a tremendous amount of work and planning that must take place. I have been utilizing our learning management system (LMS) for all assignment submissions and even with that already set in my courses, I have been working nonstop since my institution suspended in-person courses. The level of forethought and planning that goes into creating accessible (ADA), engaging, and meaningful online courses is massive. There is much more to this than simply uploading assignments to the LMS.

    I am also a parent and a full-time student. I have deep empathy for students and that is why I hope that faculty are making the effort to design DE instruction that is accessible and engaging. Many students are experiencing high levels of anxiety and distraction because of this major shift. Many never planned to take online courses and I’ve had multiple students contact me in the past week, expressing concern about keeping up online. Thoughtful courses that provide proper scaffolds and access take time. Faculty should actually be compensated for this extra time.

    In addition to the time, institutions of higher education are working to provide access to technology resources for students who do not have them. This is another costly situation.

    As an educator committed to empowering my students, I encourage folks to consider the level of effort that goes into providing well-designed online courses.

    Replies

    • Bo Loney 7 months ago7 months ago

      I wonder if the community can rally behind the professors and teachers and help with data entry?

    • Annie 7 months ago7 months ago

      I agree with you and think it is unreasonable to assume that instructors can simply “transition to online.” While many instructors are doing the best they can, students paying for higher education deserve better. This dismissive attitude from administrators that online is somehow equivalent to traditional education should not be tolerated, and I say that as on online instructor. If they are equivalent why do most institutions require 1-3 years of teaching experience in … Read More

      I agree with you and think it is unreasonable to assume that instructors can simply “transition to online.”
      While many instructors are doing the best they can, students paying for higher education deserve better. This dismissive attitude from administrators that online is somehow equivalent to traditional education should not be tolerated, and I say that as on online instructor.

      If they are equivalent why do most institutions require 1-3 years of teaching experience in a regular classroom before teaching online, but, when hiring, do not require online experience for traditional teaching positions?

      Also, students did not pay for online education but specifically opted for traditional classrooms and yet, these institutions are assuming that delivering part of what students want is acceptable.

      What if students in traditional classrooms with attendance policies had, last semester, asked a friend in the class to use Skype so they would receive credit for attending the class when they were not physically present? Would these colleges and universities have found that an acceptable alternative to attending the class?

      These institutions need to proceed cautiously before stating that online is unequivocally the same as traditional education because if that is true, why not shut down the physical buildings? That way they could reduce tuition because operating costs would be reduced.

      Luck to you as you turn your livelihood inside out without being compensated for the additional hours you are working to do so.

    • Terra 7 months ago7 months ago

      I deeply admire your commentary and support your position 100%. I have three years of online education prior to transferring to my UC. My brick and mortar experience was wonderful, this last quarter has been terrible. I have spent the last week trying to reach instructors with no response, attend Zoom meetings with no luck, and this being my senior year - not only is this simply frustrating, it is of course disheartening. I … Read More

      I deeply admire your commentary and support your position 100%. I have three years of online education prior to transferring to my UC. My brick and mortar experience was wonderful, this last quarter has been terrible. I have spent the last week trying to reach instructors with no response, attend Zoom meetings with no luck, and this being my senior year – not only is this simply frustrating, it is of course disheartening.

      I wrote an article in the school paper for an instructor of 30 years to rip me apart. The prevailing opinion appears to be that we as students should “suck it up.” If UCs are businesses as everyone wants us to see them as, and recognize they will lose money, then I guess we are consumers. Would we then not have the right to say, “Hey, we are receiving a terrible product?” Personally, for me it is about the experience. I am not getting any actual direction, so far it is absent of all that makes a UC great – discourse. In fact, I can’t even get email correspondence or a delivery of the class. I warn all my friends that they should not be considering a UC for their children in the upcoming fall, as rumor has it will be distance education as well. The community colleges in my area teach DE significantly better.