Editorial: Lowering tuition


Kelly Keen

Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen released the spring 2021 calendar, which will not include spring break.

Editorial Board

Students have $1.4 trillion of debt.

It was welcomed news when Iowa State University declared there would be no tuition increase for the fall semester. With being in the middle of a pandemic, it seems appropriate in the least to not raise the one thing that follows (or should we say haunts?) students well past graduation. 

It is still too early to call, but there is concern among students that we will encounter the same situation we did this past spring semester: going online and still paying full semester tuition. It doesn’t seem to add up.

If videos are used for an online class, most work goes up front where the professor and their teaching assistants (if applicable) record, edit and upload the videos for students to see. After that, that same material can be used multiple times. Some classes have videos from 2011.

The face-to-face time in classes is incredibly important for many. Online school isn’t for everyone. We can speak to a professor via a Zoom call, but it’s not the same as when standing in the same room. The rapport just isn’t there, and neither is the perceived quality face-to-face education brings to students. This rapport doesn’t apply to professors and students, but to the overall campus experience. Being physically in a space makes a difference for many. It is precisely for this that we can’t charge a premium price for an experience that’s not there.

If we transition to classes in the fall, this may not be an issue, but if we do transition before the fall semester, additional fees are a problem. Some courses are charging extra fees for being online such as E M 274 (an engineering core class) that costs $390 in addition to its regular tuition cost. While there are community colleges all around that are charging $600 for a three credit class (DMACC, Iowa Western Community College), ISU charges around $300-$450 per credit hour for undergraduate majors. This makes it tough to justify taking that class at ISU when it’s going to be online. Though not all classes can be taken at a community college, suitable alternate options may be found online at other universities.

If we start on site and then move online, out-of-state students should be reimbursed for the online version of the class as any difference between being out-of-state or in-state is eliminated by the move online. There should not be a difference. The university partially refunded some fees this last spring semester, but tuition was not one of them. 

We know the trend of online education is here to stay. It’s just more accessible, convenient and affordable. We know ISU is trying to make the best of it. They want their students to succeed, and they can rest assured we are all getting the short end of the stick here due to the pandemic. Tuition should be lowered if online education proceeds to this next fall semester so students can continue learning in a safe and comfortable environment. We are choosing our adventure with ISU. Will ISU choose to ride it out with us?