Yet again, the University of California (UC) has proven itself to be an all-for-profit business, neglecting the needs of their students during a pandemic. Even with a class action lawsuit against the UC, students’ grievances about paying full tuition for online classes remain unheard. It is not likely that the UC will change their selfish money habits for the foreseeable future.
Time and time again, students are continuously let down by the UC. The UC has become too much of a business rather than an educational institution, and that is why they have not considered lowering tuition. It is predatory for the UC to use COVID-19 as an excuse to charge students the same amount because they know that students have no choice but to either accept the charges or drop out into an unstable job market. People need to recognize that the UC only cares about their finances and ensuring that top administrators keep most of the money to themselves.
The only people who would greatly benefit from a potential tuition decrease would be the students. Unfortunately, the students who make up the UC are not the top priority. In March of 2020, the UC released a letter announcing that since students are continuing to earn full credit for their coursework, mandatory charges such as tuition, the student services fee, nonresident supplemental tuition, professional degree supplemental tuition and charges for self-supporting graduate professional degree programs will continue to help cover the faculty’s delivery of instruction, other educational costs and the cost of student services such as registration, financial aid and remote academic advising. They used this to justify their decision that the University has not changed its policies or practices related to refunds for these charges.
While the UC has claimed that students are continuing to earn full credit for their coursework, the quality of education is just not the same. Over the course of the pandemic, students were reassured that they would be paying full tuition for the same quality of resources online. It soon became clear that this was not the case at all. Students are finding themselves paying thousands for empty facilities and Zoom classes. For instance, at UCR, the Student Recreation Center (SRC) remains closed to the campus community, yet it is still getting paid for by students. Additionally, important resources, such as the financial aid office, have gone completely online, and the accessibility of these resources has become a steadily increasing challenge. Even if students were to call the financial aid office, their phone lines are turned off, making them only available through email. This makes getting a response even more difficult, considering they probably have to sift through an immense amount of emails from students who rely heavily on financial aid. It does not make sense that students are still paying for these facilities as if they were operating in person.
The UC has also tried to justify that they have to keep tuition the same by claiming they need it in order to pay their lower-wage employees and to deal with the other large costs of coronavirus, but they have otherwise shown that this is not the case, since they decided to lay most employees off anyways. The lack of transparency when it comes to what exactly tuition is funding is extremely problematic. Although it is promised that money goes directly back to the students at their respective schools, it is difficult to believe this sentiment when the UC regents have obscenely high salaries while some buildings on campuses, such as several at UCR, are falling apart and while important resources remain unavailable.
Furthermore, the UC needs to stop placing the financial burden on students and start looking to themselves as an institution. It seems as if whatever decision the UC comes to with tuition, the students will always pay the biggest price. While it may look like the UC is counting on this virus being a temporary setback, they are missing the bigger picture and are not thinking about who this is directly affecting. Even if tuition were to be lowered, this would give the UC more of a reason to cut whole academic or athletic programs. Consider UCR and their proposals to eliminate the School of Public Policy (SPP) and Athletics in order to cope with financial strain. If tuition was actually lowered, this proposal would most definitely take place not just at UCR, but at other underfunded UC campuses all because at the end of the day, the UC will continue to place the burden on their students. Again, this is rather vulturous of the UC to make students either pay full tuition for half a college experience or give up programs that they benefit from.
It does not sound likely that the students will win their lawsuit against these big institutions. The UC alone has money and lawyers and will undoubtedly find a loophole to justify keeping tuition as is. It does not seem very hopeful that the students will come out of this situation with the promise of lowering tuition. No matter what the outcome is, the students of the UC will always be the biggest losers. All of the burdens will continue to be the students’ problem because the UC will always put their profit first.
The best-case scenario for this worst possible situation is for the UC to stop running itself like a corporation once and for all. The university needs to be more transparent and honest about how much money it has and where that money is going. The regents need to consider taking a pay cut, and money, such as the 10 billion dollar unrestricted fund, needs to be redistributed fairly to cover the costs that each campus is claiming to suffer from. With that money alone, employees could be kept, tuition would not have to be paid in full and the student body would be better off overall.