NDSU on a dime

Changes need to be made to decrease cost for students

Pixabay | Photo courtesy
Poor quality online schooling should not cost the same as in-person classes.

If we could go back in time and talk to ourselves one month ago about how the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic has panned out and how many of our lives have changed, we might not believe it, I know I certainly wouldn’t. 

Students are taking their classes from home, many NDSU students are doing their math homework in the kitchen while their dad blends a smoothie for twenty minutes. It’s a funny picture, but one very few of us would have anticipated.

While these types of consequences may seem insignificant, there are serious consequences of this pandemic to consider. These include students being out of jobs, not having access to the internet for classes, students getting ill or having to return to unsafe homes or poor living conditions. All this is to say, the level of quality of our education has decreased, meanwhile, the cost of our education remains the same.

Online classes simply aren’t at the same level as many in-person classes. I’m paying the same amount for my 15-minute Tuesday and Thursday classes as I was when those classes were one hour and 15 minutes long a month ago. 

Many peoples’ lives have completely transformed due to the virus, yet there has been no change to cost, and I must ask: why not?

NDSU has made some steps towards reducing costs for students: they have offered refunds for students who had housing and meal plans. Students’ rooms are sitting empty and many students who would have otherwise liked to stay in the halls and were asked to leave were asked, “Why am I still paying for this?”

Great. Genuinely, offering refunds for students who pay to live and eat on campus who are no longer allowed to live and eat on campus is truly great. However, what about all the students paying to use computers on campus, paying for high caliber classes on campus that aren’t to the same level of excellence online or students paying for hands-on experiences?

If the university can so easily see why we shouldn’t charge students to live and eat on campus when they are no longer living and eating on campus, why can’t they make similar conclusions about online schooling?

The first thing the university needs to address is tuition. Even if NDSU is notorious for its reasonable prices, there are still people paying thousands of dollars to take classes that don’t live up to the caliber of many community and online universities. Many professors weren’t trained to teach online and many classes aren’t capable of being delivered through an online platform.

So, students end up paying the high price of a university education while receiving a sub-par education. 

According to the NDSU website, included in our tuition fees are payments toward “Career Services and Student Health Service, admission to fine arts and athletic events, student publications, Wellness Center membership, library services and ongoing technology needs on campus.”

Career Services has been moved online, most students who would use Student Health Services aren’t currently in Fargo, there isn’t any admission to fine arts and sporting events because there are no fine arts or sporting events, student publications have been moved online (including The Spectrum) and on-campus utilities such as the Wellness Center and library are closed.

So why in the world are we still paying for these services? These services are no longer applicable. These services which many students don’t even use in the first place, but certainly do not use now. 

The university can try to make weak-willed attempts to argue that online classes should be the same cost to students, but how can they possibly explain to students why they’re paying for services that are currently unavailable to them. 

Then there are other issues of cost that don’t affect all students but certainly affect some.

A university which does not come out and support its students first, before it thinks about how to please a board of directors or how they can afford that new building alumni want, is not a university that is “student-focused.”

I will share my own personal experience. I’m an out-of-state student. I’m originally from a suburb outside of Chicago, Illinois, where the occurrence of the virus is much more common. I am also immunocompromised, so if you get the virus, I have the capability to get it twice as bad. So going home to an epicenter of the virus really wasn’t an option.

While attending NDSU, I have spent the last two years living on campus. During my freshman year I lived in a residence hall as a resident and my second year I lived in that same residence hall as a resident assistant. Staying in that building, where there are shared bathrooms and kitchens for two months (without a meal plan), didn’t seem like a viable option either.

So I decided to move into an on-campus apartment. As many companies and landlords across the country discuss rent forgiveness during the virus, NDSU has remained silent. 

There are still many students living in these on-campus apartments. Students locked into a lease, or students like me, who really have nowhere else to go. The cost of rent to these students, and to anyone else paying rent right now for that matter, is one thing when jobs are available and going to work is a good option, but right now I’m more focused on not getting ill than on finding a new job.

No mention of rent forgiveness has been made to students living in NDSU apartment housing. But if there aren’t any places for people to work, there will be no way for people to pay, and any sort of communication on the topic should honestly have been expected at this point. 

Around the country, we’re hearing daily about instances of landlords forgiving rent, companies paying employees for time they won’t be at work and the government doling out $1,200 to help Americans through these times. Through all this, NDSU has remained silent on any similar help to its students.

The Cheesecake Factory came out and said it can’t pay the rent on its restaurants for this week. If the palace of cheesecake and 5,000 calorie meals can’t afford to pay its rent, how are students without corporate boards to fix their problems meant to pay rent, tuition or get by? 

There are so many problems to concern students right now, things that should exceed any worry about paying for school. There are students who don’t know how to find necessities, such as food and toilet paper, there are students whose families have been financially rocked by the pandemic, students who will likely get the virus, students who have lost their jobs and their mental and emotional support.

A university that does not come out and support its students first, before it thinks about how to please a board of directors or how they can afford that new building alumni want, is not a university that is “student-focused.” More aptly, NDSU, if it doesn’t come out and promise to assist students during this time, is money-focused, image-focused and callous towards the dark realities created by its own indifference.

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