In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Oregon adopted an almost entirely online fall term on Aug. 26. Despite the virtual delivery, UO has not reduced tuition costs for students.
Some students have reported experiencing stress, anxiety and frustration because of their tuition costs and have said that they’re not sure the price is worth it.
The university is unable to lower tuition because the cost of providing a UO education has not changed with the shift to remote learning, UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard said. UO now has added costs due to COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the pandemic through mid-October, UO departments have reported over $900,000 in added hard costs that include computer hardware, software licenses and webcams, Hubbard said in an email.
The university recorded around $700,000 in additional cleaning costs, as well as new sanitation stations for classrooms and common areas. The university also used $600,000 to install hands-free sinks, paper towel dispensers in restroom facilities and $400,000 in personal protective equipment including cloth masks, Hubbard said.
UO also spent over $700,000 on COVID-19 testing and tracing programs, he said.
According to the UO Tuition page, labor accounts for 80% of costs.
Eryn McGuire, a senior at UO, is an out-of-state student. She said her tuition costs are not worth the education that she is getting. “It’s week four, and I feel like I haven’t learned anything really,” she said.
McGuire said she feels like she is not getting the in-class experience she is paying for and that it is harder to stay on top of assignments.
“It’s so much easier to just be in class and hear them say ‘make sure you do this!’ but when it’s all asynchronous, it’s harder,” she said.
McGuire’s parents are paying $48,000 for her education at UO, and she said they feel unhappy about it. She said she feels grateful her parents are helping her pay for school, but she wishes they didn’t have to pay the high price for the low quality in education she’s getting.
“It feels like the university doesn’t care as much about me,” she said. “It’s just about the money.”
Similar to McGuire, Callie Davison, a senior at UO, and an in-state student, said the price she is paying is not worth the education. Davison pays for tuition on her own. She believes it's hard to succeed in the real world without a degree and the price to get a degree takes a long time to pay off.
“I wonder constantly when it won’t even be worth it anymore,” she said.
Although Davison understands why the university charges a high cost, she said online course fees and additional building and device fees are “ridiculous” and “unnecessary.”
Because she is responsible for paying tuition, she said these extra fees add more stress, especially during a time that already feels “hectic.”
On the other hand, Davison feels lucky because her course work hasn’t caused her many issues. She said her professors have been accommodating to her because they have transitioned well into remote learning.
Davison is aware of the resources and programs UO provides to help with financial stability and she has made full use of them. Although the funding she received from UO has helped her a lot, she said, “it wasn’t even enough to cover a full month of rent.”
Andrew Bui, a third-year student, applied for UO’s CARES Act last spring. He said the university helped him a lot.
Bui is a Pathway student, one of 2,500 other UO students. He said he feels supported by the university through the Pathway Oregon program. “I feel like the university has helped give me enough so that I can cover tuition,” he said.
Although some students feel supported by the university, others feel differently — including parents.
Kristi Brant, a parent of a UO student, said there are downsides to remote learning. “I would like to see a tuition decrease,” she said. Brant said the poor access students have with their professors negatively affects their education, which is a big reason why she believes in a tuition decrease.
She said she is paying facility fees that her daughter does not use, due to COVID-19.
Brant said her daughter is enrolled in an American Sign Language course that does not have Zoom and she feels like her daughter is having to teach herself, she said.
“I would think it’s hard to teach yourself that,” Brant said.
She said she feels blessed that her husband and her are working because many families, including parents, have lost their jobs. “It’s financially hard when we have all these other expenses,” she said. “I feel like we're in a movie and we can’t fast forward out of it.”
Editor's note: This story was updated on October 29 to include further information from the university, and to clarify that UO departments have reported an increase in hard costs from the beginning of the pandemic through mid-October.