Colleges’ resistance to discounting tuition exposes lack of innovation, flexibility

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

The likes of Harvard University and other expensive higher education institutions announced that they will charge full tuition to students, even though several institutions have shifted from in-person classes to online learning for the foreseeable future.

According to Fox Business, Harvard University’s full-time tuition for two semesters is $49,653. The cost included a $24,827-per-semester tuition cost, in addition to a $2,157 student fees per semester. The university made the announcement in an online post and claimed, “Students will learn remotely, whether or not they live on campus.”

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences said that it will bring back 40% of its undergraduate students to campus, including college freshmen. For the spring semester, keeping the 40% student density model, Harvard would bring back college seniors to campus. Other students who could be invited back to campus are international students and those who may prefer to be on-campus rather than in uncertain living situations in their hometowns.

But Harvard is not alone in holding fast to full tuition while offering discounts or pro-rated amounts for campus housing and other non-tuition-related costs.

The University of California-Berkeley said it will not discount tuition either, like Harvard. In an online post, the university stated that although the fall semester will not be canceled, “Tuition and mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction and will not be refunded in the event instruction occurs remotely for any part of the Academic Year.” The university rationalized that it had to charge full tuition to “continue to help cover ongoing operations such as the delivery of instruction and the cost of student services such as registration, financial aid, and remote academic advising.”

Cornell University, another Ivy League institution like Harvard, said it will not reverse its previously scheduled tuition increase for the fall 2020 semester. Tuition is scheduled to increase 3.6 percent for the fall 2020 semester to $58,586 from $55,188. The university’s student newspaper, the Cornell Daily Sun, wrote that tuition rates “have been rising every single year for at least a decade.” The university stated that it will raise additional funding for financial aid, given that the pandemic is ongoing.

Bureaucracies, though important in some respects, tend to slow down and inhibit innovation, progress, and flexibility at any institution. Higher education’s resistance to providing a discounted tuition rate exposed their inability to quickly adapt, reform, and innovate. For example, small businesses and large corporations have furloughed workers or slashed workers’ pay during the coronavirus pandemic due to a pandemic-induced recession and economic closure.

Professors and academics used to lecture Americans about shared sacrifice and making sacrifices for the common good, particularly after espousing and promoting socialist ideals. During the pandemic, now is as good time as any for academics and university administration personnel to take a pay cut as most Americans have.

But higher education institutions demonstrated a lack of financial adaptability by charging full-price despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the resulting financial hardships for parents and college students. Students and their parents may not forget higher education’s lack of sensitivity and the pandemic could lead to some landscape-altering changes in higher education sooner rather than later.