By KYLIE YEATMAN
It’s no secret that the traditional college process has been all but robbed from this year’s senior class. Announcements came out during a time of great uncertainty–a phrase all students are certainly tired of hearing by this point–and were littered with talk of the “strange times” we live in, ultimately skirting around the question of whether schools will be open at all come the 2020-21 school year.
We all know that safety is a top priority for students, but once the shelter-in-place orders are suspended, our lives will immediately be littered with fiscal concerns as we’re forced to choose from a small handful of still-open businesses for employment. Further, several colleges have made it clear that they are unsure whether they’ll be open at all come this fall, and even if all instruction is to be done remotely, it will not equate to a decrease in tuition.
Emails from the University of California system have already indicated that regardless of the form of education the schools intend to deliver, tuition will remain the same–“tuition and mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction,” the UC policy reads–and therefore students could be paying upwards of $30,000 for a few Zoom seminars and a classroom in their bedroom.
I understand that universities have to charge a certain amount for tuition in order to remain open, and I by no means intend to criticize any school for adhering to its clearly established guidelines, but I do believe the onus is on the student to consider whether it’s worth it. Take, for example, the fact that the average in-state tuition for a student living off-campus and attending a UC is $33,200…and that’s for an in-state college.
Coronavirus hotspots around the country notably overlap with college hotspots, and part of the justification for attending schools in another state is for the experience of living in a new place. But let’s be honest with ourselves: Will you really be living in New York in five months? Boston? Even Los Angeles?
Having the “college experience” is a large part of what makes tuition worth it to college students, and that experience is largely shaped by what students are looking for, whether that’s the social scene, interacting with professors, exploring internships or making new friends, all of which will likely be stifled by online education. Even further, the uncertainty of how major colleges will transition into solely online work from the beginning of the year should be on students’ minds. Do you trust your college to provide an adequate education from a distance? An education you’d be willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for?
While the race for a COVID-19 vaccine is certainly well underway, even the most optimistic of scientists agree that it won’t be coming this year. Not only do vaccines typically take years to develop, but as noted by a BBC news health report, the majority of experts don’t believe that a vaccine will be available until the summer of 2021, and until then, large gatherings should be discouraged–like the large gatherings you might find on a college campus.
I’m aware that attending a college is a salient period in the lives of young adults, but I also know that the average teenager had more in mind with their college experience than sitting on the couch being lectured on a MacBook while at home. If you’re truly committed to the idea of higher learning and believe you have the self-discipline to make the transition to college digitally, then that’s your call–just remember what you’ll be missing out on.