The University Should Curb Tuition This Academic Year

On Wednesday July 29 President Kuncl announced that the University of Redlands, despite previously planning to carefully reopen, will not be returning for in-person classes, housing, events, or activities, at least for the foreseeable future. There are many critiques one could offer about how the University has proceeded in light of COVID-19, but this decision doesn’t seem to call for one. Stopping a virus from spreading between students living a few feet from each other didn’t seem plausible, especially considering the COVID numbers in San Bernardino county. However, now that the campus will certainly be closed, there is another question that becomes salient: is it right for students to pay standard tuition for a fully online experience?

I mean not to downplay the value I place in my experiences at the U of R. In every way and more, Redlands has delivered on what I was promised in many personal notes from then-students and alumni. I’ve enjoyed small classroom experiences, brilliant professors, uniquely creative and engaging peers, a small campus community, and the opportunity to lead student organizations.

Yet the cost of college, as everyone reading this likely knows, has crossed the line separating expensive from absurd. For one year of the experiences aforementioned, an accepted student is floated a price tag of $52,150 before housing and a few small fees. As the University fairly points out, >90% of students receive some financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships. However, for every year that I’ve been here (I’m a senior) Redlands has raised the real cost of attendance, combined tuition and housing, by at least $2,000, while the financial aid plans remain stagnant. This is well beyond inflation, the average rate of which sat between 0.6% and 2.1% from 2017 to 2020.

A substantial minority, one would hope, of that $52,150 is attributable to activities and events that happen on campus. Consider everything students pay into that will not be happening, or happening in a limited capacity. The administration will save money on reduced upkeep of all buildings and grounds, the fitness complex, commons, and library, and having no in-person events or campus activities.

On top of that, the University is likely cutting costs by changing the way adjunct professors (62% of all professors) are paid from a salary to a wage (this is apparently required by California law), which will probably reduce professors’ net income if it has any meaningful change. The college is also outsourcing counseling services through partnering with Christian Counseling Services (CCS) to provide telehealth appointments to students. This is a time when, more than ever, students will need mental health support, though University counseling is limited to single-sessions and short-term arrangements. Some University staff have and will lose their jobs because the campus is closing, and others who normally work year-round were prevented from working parts of this summer, I’ve heard personally from University employees. This is another way that the administration’s costs are going down.

For a student to pay, let’s say, $30,000 a year (assuming generous financial aid), that sum must match the reality of an online education; it does not. For $30,000, one could have paid for more than 2 years of on-campus tuition at a public University of California. While there are many advantages Redlands has over public universities, which typically have hundreds of students in introductory classes, it should not be charging 2-3X (depending on grants) the price of a public university given recent developments. I expect my professors to prevail in making the material engaging via Zoom and online discussion boards, but there is simply not enough value in online classes to substantiate charging $30,000 or $52,150.

Just like any product, the reduction in the University’s services should be reflected at the consumer level. If students are receiving a lesser version of the product, their education, prices ought to reflect that.

Many families are also incurring the worst economic conditions since at least 2008. The University was already becoming unaffordable for many students before the pandemic. Now, I’ve seen friends leave Redlands whose families can no longer afford it in conjunction with the move to online learning.

The Redlands administration, led by President Kuncl, should continue to serve the interests of its primary constituency, the students. With that goal in mind, it is impossible to justify a base tuition of $52,150 while classes are taught online.


5 thoughts on “The University Should Curb Tuition This Academic Year

  1. Amazing points that I hope are passed on to administration. I agree with this wholeheartedly. There is no reason to be charged the same amount as usual when the university’s operating costs are significantly less and the campus is mostly inactive. If any bit of this is untrue, administration should be transparent as to why they are not able to decrease tuition because they have not been communicating well at all.

  2. This has been on my mind since the threat of COVID began. As a parent of a freshman I have questioned the tuition silently to myself knowing the cost of this university is very high and yet you have pointed out more areas than I brought to my own attention. Perhaps the university is still charging full tuition to stay afloat. I have no idea but we will be expecting an exceptional experience for the price tag. It appears the professors are up to the task and although I am a little nervous, I am also excited to see what Redland’s professors do to keep our children engaged. I suppose one of my biggest concerns is the freshmen getting lost and not knowing where to turn and ask for help and then this big tuition goes down the drain. Because of privacy between the university and students, parents are kept in the dark, unlike high school. I am truly hoping this works and the students are not lost in this virtual world of education. Returning students have the benefit of knowing how Redlands works….crossing my fingers this is worth it because it was a big check to write. Thanks for the article.

  3. As a parent of a Johnston Senior and a strong UR supporter over the years, this issue is a concern to me. I don’t discount the work professors still must do to convert their lesson plans to a virtual platform, however there are non-instructional costs the University can slow (ground maintenance), defer (building repairs) or even close for the semester (sports, pool, gym, dining halls, dorms) passing on some of those costs to the student/family bodies. This are unique and trying times for us all . . . UoR must also step up and make changes to reduce costs to reflect reduced access, on-campus experience, etc. 10% tuition reduction across the board would be a good start, but 15% would be even better.

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