Pandemic, economic recession create increased need for financial aid and assistance, few schools decrease tuition fees, universities with large endowments need to do the same
As college classes move online, students continue to pay full tuition for a virtual college experience amidst a global pandemic, despite a growing need for financial aid.
Colleges across the U.S. are struggling to keep up with the wave of new requests for financial aid. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected American families, causing drastic changes in the household and financial stability. According to a recent National Public Radio Poll, 50 percent of Americans have been out of work or had a decrease in work hours since the emergence of coronavirus. This has led to an increase in financial instability across America, which can be seen as college students struggle to meet tuition payments.
Many prestigious universities like Harvard College and Columbia University are facing lawsuits by their own students who are suing for tuition refunds for the 2020 spring semester and hopefully an increase in financial aid for the fall semester. Harvard, specifically, has been stubborn to release any information regarding tuition prices after moving fully online. Forbes states that as of 2016, Harvard has 36 billion dollars in endowment. So, why aren’t they willing to provide any tuition assistance to their own students?
Now, more than ever, students need to be supported by their educational institutions. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators claims that out of 293 colleges, 90 percent of them will see a significant increase in financial aid requests. Many students who are applying for Free Application for Student Aid have been financially stable in previous years; however, the issue right now is that colleges require students to state their family’s tax data from two years ago that may not correspond with their present financial situation. Lower income students, who are already on financial aid, are currently at a disadvantage because they cannot apply for more aid if they are already receiving a maximum amount.
But despite the push back from larger colleges to give out tuition assistance, smaller colleges have actually lowered tuition fees. Williams College, for example, is taking 15 percent off of their tuition for all students. The American University also cut their summer tuition by seven percent. However, many other colleges are refusing to even sort though new financial aid requests let alone give out more money. Because Congress has allowed schools to deal with FAFSA applications differently during times of crisis, many schools are repealing their past financial aid guidance and implementing new systems that worry students on whether they will receive any financial aid.
Another significant problem is that some colleges simply can’t afford to give out more money. According to the New York Times, 30 percent of colleges were already running on deficits from the spring semester. Universities were already struggling with gathering enrollment and tuition money before the pandemic, so it is harder for them to simply give out refunds and tuition cuts at the moment. The American Council of Education claims that colleges will have a 10 percent increase in their “back to school” costs due to having to implement new safety measures for COVID-19. Chapman University’s president claims that they have significantly cut their $400 million budget as well as salaries to budget money toward new safety protocols.
However, large colleges continue to boast their large endowment funds, so where is that money when students need it most? Harvard has posted on their website that it has “up to $1 million to support students facing challenges related to Internet access.” They are willing to boast their large budgets on their website but cannot afford to lower tuition costs and give out more financial aid to their own loyal students. How can small colleges like Williams College be willing to take off 15 percent of their tuition price for students and the richest schools in the country can’t even give housing refunds? Harvard needs to step up as one of the most prestigious colleges in the country and help their own students. They have no reason to withhold millions of dollars that can be used to help both students with financial aid and with implementing safety precautions. Universities need to stop bragging about their funds and actually start using the money for their students instead of making excuses and brushing off allegations by displaying a facade on their websites.