By Agence France-Presse
The cost of a university education in the United States has long been eye-watering, with a year costing tens of thousands of dollars.
But as the coronavirus crisis settles in, students — many of whom take out huge loans to finance their degrees — are wondering how to justify spending $70,000 a year on…. Zoom classes.
They feel like they’re getting the raw end of the deal, and are demanding that their colleges be held to account.
“We’re paying for other services that the campus offers that aren’t digitized,” says Dhrumil Shah, who is doing a Master’s degree in public health at George Washington University.
The 24-year-old relied in part on loans to pay for his two-year program in the US capital. In a few days, he will earn his diploma, but there will be no traditional graduation ceremony.
Shah has signed one of several petitions demanding some kind of reimbursement from the school.
“I think the quality of service has decreased,” Shah, a native of Chicago, told AFP.
He complains that the shift to distance learning due to stay-at-home orders in effect in Washington to curb the spread of the deadly virus has resulted in a loss of structure and supervision.
“It sets up the person going through that experience for failure,” he says, admitting he’s become “drastically” unproductive without the accountability of in-person classes.
Shah is not alone. Many students have lamented that their quintessential American college experience has been lost — no sunny afternoons on college quads playing frisbee, no classes in high-tech labs, no crazy nights out.
Molly Riddick also signed a petition demanding that her school, New York University, make some kind of gesture to compensate its students.
“No matter how much NYU insists to the contrary, it is simply not possible to provide a full performing arts education via Zoom,” she said in a comment on change.org.
Some students have taken their grievances to court. In one complaint seen by AFP, Adelaide Dixon accuses the University of Miami of awarding her a diploma with a “diminished” value because of the nature of online and pass/fail courses.
She has sued the school for several million dollars, on behalf of about 100 students.
At least 50 US colleges and universities have been sued by students on similar grounds.