College and Corona: How Universities are Managing the Pandemic
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
As cases hit record numbers, the coronavirus pandemic continues to interfere with American lives. Universities across the country have released decisions to conduct courses online for the upcoming school year.
As a college student, I have experienced first-hand the challenges that this decision has presented to universities. I will be entering my senior year at the University of Southern California (USC) next semester. Last month, USC students were notified that financial aid packages would be adjusted to the cost of attendance of a student living at home. Other private universities such as Stanford have released similar decisions. This means that USC will be giving out less grant money to their students because rent costs have been eliminated from the total cost of attendance.
Most USC students live off-campus and sign their leases for the following year between April and May. Since USC led students to believe that the fall semester would be conducted in-person during housing search months, students are now stuck in lease contracts that they can no longer afford. The USC housing Facebook pages are now cluttered with subleasing posts as students desperately try to find ways to escape their unnecessary leases. Personally, I have moved back in with my parents and I am in the process of trying to terminate my own lease. It is a stressful dilemma that has many students wondering if they can afford next semester.
A few students have expressed frustration that tuition has not decreased for online classes. Recently, students began circulating a petition for USC to correct the cost of attendance. The argument states that online courses are nowhere near the same quality as in-person courses; therefore, they should not be valued at the same cost. Indeed, USC has done the opposite of student demands. The university raised tuition by 3.5% for the 2020 school year.
All over the USC community media pages, students are in a panic. The pandemic has put many students and their parents out of work leading to a decrease in household income. Some students declared a leave of absence for the upcoming semester as a result of these financial challenges.
In the last few weeks, USC international students were at risk of deportation. The Trump administration planned to revoke visas from international students attending only online classes. This meant that international students would not be allowed to finish their in-progress degrees and would be forced to return to their native countries. USC had recently joined other universities such as Stanford and Harvard in a lawsuit against the Trump administration. It was only a couple days later that the Trump administration announced that the U.S. dismissed the visa revocation plan. Despite this victory, the university still faces several obstacles.
Unfortunately, it is not realistic for the university to decrease tuition. The institution is losing money rapidly and relies on student tuition to stay in operation. The pandemic has everyone struggling at the surface of the water.
Please social distance! Work together to end this pandemic, so we and our institutions may once again thrive.