Image courtesy of Catholic University Communications
By Katie Ward
After Catholic University’s abrupt announcement on Friday that sophomores, juniors, and seniors would not be returning to take in-person classes for the fall semester, many students called for a reduction in the cost of attendance. The university responded to this intensifying pressure by announcing on Monday evening a 10% refund on tuition for students who were intending to take at least some hybrid or in-person classes that were moved online.
The announcement, made via email, also stated that students who planned to utilize on-campus housing and are no longer permitted will receive a full refund for on-campus room and board, and students who planned to live off-campus and purchased a dining plan will still have that plan honored, according to the email. A limited number of dining plan options will also be made available for off-campus students. All of the adjustments will be processed shortly after August 15, when the modifications will be posted on all applicable student accounts. Tuition refunds will not be offered for programs that are traditionally online courses.
President Garvey’s Monday night email began by saying that the administration had heard from many students over the three days since the announcement of online classes for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
“While I would have preferred to provide more detail in last Friday’s announcement, I felt it was essential to share the most important information as quickly as possible, even as we were calculating the significant financial implications for both families and students as well as the University,” wrote Garvey.
Following the 180-degree turn the university took regarding in-person classes, many students brought up the differences in educational standards between in-person and online classes over social media.
One response from the student body was a petition to reduce tuition for online classes, started by Instagram account @satirical_cua, which received over 1100 signatures from students before the university’s email.
“This satire page was originally a class project last fall, but I felt that after Friday’s sudden announcement, the administration didn’t deserve to go unchallenged,” said the owner of the account, who wished to remain anonymous. “Calling out this injustice through social media headlines was certainly cathartic, but I and the many others students who messaged me wanted to take the message even further. I started a petition for tuition refunds early Saturday morning, and we reached 1000 signatures just a day later.”
The account posted on Monday morning that the petition had been forwarded to CUA administrators, including the president, provost, dean of students, the vice presidents for student affairs and finance, and the Offices of Financial Aid, Admissions, Enrollment Services.
“Keeping the tuition at the same high rate implies that we are receiving the same quality of education and experience,” senior Elizabeth Ludlam wrote in her petition comment. “However, we are denied hands on learning, in person classes, interaction with peers in an academic setting, access to facilities that would aid our education, basic student experiences, labs, practice rooms, performances…. The list goes on and on.”
Several other D.C. universities, after announcing their move to online classes, announced tuition reductions or financial assistance to students. George Washington University announced a 10% tuition reduction for undergraduate students not living on campus, Georgetown announced a 10% tuition reduction for all undergraduates and a 5% for all graduate students, and American announced a 10% fall tuition decrease on top of an additional commitment of $13 million in financial aid to students. Howard University, while still holding in-person classes for the semester at this time, has announced that the Board of Trustees is “actively reviewing the University budget and current student charges and considering whether there is a way that [they] can provide further assistance to our students”.
“Catholic University is a financial burden on my family, which my family made the decision to take on based on the amazing campus, community, resources, and location,” wrote sophomore Sam Ferris on his petition signature. “Being that almost each of these reasons is now gone for me…. a decrease in tuition would make this pill easier to swallow. It is completely unrealistic to say that online learning is ‘the same as in person’.”
Ludlam expressed her belief in her comment that the university prioritized freshmen as the “smartest financial investment.”
“I understand that CUA’s decision to put upperclassmen online was out of concern for our health and safety,” she wrote. “However, charging in person tuition for an online education is no less than an act of greed.”
In the email sent to the university community on Friday, President Garvey said that the Roadmap 20/21 team is addressing additional followup questions, and that updates on issues will be provided early next week.