Students, faculty question spring, summer tuition costs, quality of remote learning

Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 4:50pm

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design by Lizzy Rueppel

On March 23, University President Mark Schlissel notified the University of Michigan community that spring and summer terms classes would be conducted remotely. Despite the move to continue online instruction, tuition for the spring/summer terms will remain the same, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily. 

“There will be no changes in tuition and fees for the spring/summer terms,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email. “Spring/summer tuition is based on the number of credit hours a student is taking.”

While students’ summer plans continue to change amid various internship and job cancellations, students said these cancellations and the move to remote learning are making them consider spring or summer term classes. This is the case for LSA sophomore Nathan Martin, who will be taking summer courses in lieu of working with one of the many canceled internship programs he applied to.

“I definitely wouldn’t have taken Michigan spring/summer courses, but I’m planning on taking summer courses simply because I don’t see myself as being able to do much else with my summer,” Martin said. “I'm on the lookout for remote internship gigs, but those are pretty hard to come by I feel.”

The cost per credit hour in spring and summer terms is the same as fall and winter. Students typically take less credits in spring and summer than in fall and winter.

In an interview with The Daily March 27, Schlissel said not every course originally expected to be taught for spring and summer semesters may not be because the ones that will will be taught well with more preparation for the remote teaching format.

“We probably won’t be teaching every single course we planned to teach, but the ones we teach are going to be at a University of Michigan level quality, we’ll have time to prepare,” Schlissel said. “The students will get the same kind of full credit they’d be getting if they were taking the course entirely in person. It’ll just be delivered remotely, but the usual tuition will apply.”

Martin said he should not have to pay full tuition with the loss of on-campus resources and facilities.

“I’m not able to utilize things like the buildings for my classes,” Martin said. “I’m not sure exactly how much building maintenance and upkeep costs each student, but whatever it is I’d like to keep my portion of that since I literally cannot use the buildings… Obviously the (University) could not have foreseen this and they can’t just not clean buildings, but they can reduce the services they apply to buildings.”

For Martin, tuition is not just about credits, but the opportunities available on campus. 

“I’m not just paying for the credits,” Martin said. “I’m paying for the ability to network with other students, have research opportunities, engage in the student clubs and experience college life in Ann Arbor. The actual exchange of goods from the University to me is, yes, a degree, but that’s not the only reason I and many others attend college. Some things simply can’t be replaced online.”

Though Martin is in favor of tuition reduction, he recognizes that faculty and staff must be paid to continue teaching classes and provide some services remotely. Martin said this only further complicates the issue of tuition costs and financial resources available to the University. 

A FAQ page from the Office of the Registrar addresses winter term tuition and fees and this approach also will apply to spring/summer term as well, according to Fitzgerald. The page explains that tuition will continue to pay faculty and staff as well as additional expenses.

“Tuition and fees will continue to pay for our faculty teaching courses as well as all the associated costs of delivering our educational experience in this COVID-related remote environment,” the page reads. “Instructors will be available and delivering content, albeit in an alternative format, and students will be completing their classes, receiving credit and grades, and continuing to work toward their degree requirements at a world-class institution.”

Unlike Martin, Engineering freshman Kashaf Usman said she has canceled her previous plans to take summer courses. With a difficult transition to remote learning, Usman said in an email to The Daily that being charged full tuition for online classes was not ideal for her.

“I had planned on taking a few courses before everything started bandwagoning, but staying home and taking classes via Zoom has hindered my learning greatly,” Usman wrote. “I have always had trouble focusing in general, and this situation isn’t helping. Since this was my first semester at Michigan and I experienced this semester with such hardship, I decided not to take courses over the summer.”

Usman also noted the types of classes taken online might affect how they occur online.

“Many people don’t have the option to take summer off and paying full tuition for online classes is a little absurd,” Usman wrote. “People who have interactive labs are at a greater disadvantage than students like me that are mostly taking EECS courses, which are I guess doable online.”

Biology lecturer Cindee Giffen teaches Biology 173 lab over the spring/summer term and said though students may feel they are getting less out of interactive labs, courses like these are needed in order for students to graduate on time.

“Nobody that’s teaching in spring and summer is doing it because we get a lot of money or because we’re enjoying this,” Giffen said. “The reason why I’m doing it in spring and summer is because I teach a course that’s a prerequisite for a lot of other courses and if we didn’t offer it this spring then a lot of students would be behind in their education. From a lecturer’s perspective, we’re just trying to offer the courses so that students can progress in their degree requirements. Our concern primarily is to make sure that students can actually finish.”

She said if tuition were to be lowered, as a lecturer she would make even less money during the spring/summer term.

“For lecturers, the vast majority of our appointments are dedicated to teaching,” Giffen said. “The people that are doing a lot of the teaching and in spring and summer are lecturers. When you look at the faculty salaries for people who are teaching in spring and summer, we’re not the people who make the big money. If I don’t teach in spring and summer, I make no money — zero dollars — for four months. For my spring class that I’m teaching, by the time benefits and everything are covered, I’ll probably make around $7,500 for the whole summer.”

Giffen said the faculty and staff would be most affected by tuition lowering compared to administrators, who make significantly more money.

“Not that I would tell students who they should be complaining to, but I don’t think that it’s the faculty that have the really deep pockets here, especially given that most of us are lecturers and do make less money,” Giffen said. “I think the place where there is extra money would be among our administrators.”

Daily Staff Reporter Angelina Brede can be reached at angbrede@umich.edu.