UCI Student Affairs, the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching & Learning and the Graduate Division sent out an email to the UCI community on March 30 confirming that spring tuition and fees would stay at the usual $5,207 for in-state students and $15,125 for nonresidents through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the difficulty of transitioning from on-campus to completely remote operation, the UCI community was shocked to learn that the full set of campus fees would still be applied despite many students having no access to these on-campus services. However, the decision to keep fees the same is not out of greed or a disregard for student needs; it’s quite the opposite.
According to the March 30 email from the UCI administration, “many of the costs associated with campus-based fees continue, and new costs have been incurred during this time,” with reference to “laptop loans and other emergency distance learning related needs.” The direct quote may seem vague, but the campus is providing laptops for any student who needs to borrow one. In addition, the campus has teamed up with LiveHealth Online (LHO) to assist all remote students. UC SHIP plans are PPO, which means that we can use the LHO services in conjunction with any doctor local to each student as long as they are on the Anthem Blue Cross provider network. These are just two examples of the many steps that the campus has taken to provide emergency support services for students, all without adding to the student fees for the 2020 spring quarter.
The campus along with the UCI community is attempting to keep every student capable of attending classes remotely as well as offering as many pre-coronavirus campus resources as possible to students who cannot leave campus. The March 30 email also addressed the persisting “debt owed for student buildings and facilities and our need to maintain campus infrastructure continue despite the current crisis.” Although a large portion of the campus community is remote, many students are still marooned in campus housing and need the full range of services that the campus continues to offer them. Certain services are not being offered to students despite the small remaining population, such as the ARC shutting down to visitors and the campus shuttles no longer operating, yet all students are still paying the full fees associated with them.
The campus is working hard to keep its faculty, staff and student members safe and taken care of considering how suddenly the pandemic spread through the U.S. Since the UC campuses have all emptied out, both students and non-essential staff have found themselves working remotely to continue to operate the UC system. UC President Jante Napolitano, along with all of the UC Chancellors, announced that “there will be no COVID-19 related layoffs for all career employees,” bringing the UC community closer together by giving staff the ability to pay for their bills with their regular salary, rather than having to file for unemployment.
Several students have expressed their discontent with the decision to keep tuition the same in different social media platforms, such as Reddit, Instagram and Facebook. In particular, as addressed on the UCI Reddit page, a recent UCI $39,000,000 stimulus package sparked a counterargument to the lack of a partial tuition refund. Although it may seem like the stimulus package could cover certain fees like paying a $139 fee to run the Student Center, the package is not being wasted or stashed away. This package is going to assist with issues such as avoiding layoffs and to help the university fund emergency research projects to combat the coronavirus pandemic. One such project, a “bridge ventilator,” aims to help overwhelmed hospitals quickly manufacture ventilator devices in the event of a much larger outbreak and sudden influx of patients. Students are also seeing a lump sum of that $39,000,000 going towards lease cancellations in student housing as well as assistance with moving out from dorms.
This article isn’t intended to shut down the many concerned students who need to save money, but rather to inform students of the great lengths that the UCI community and the entire UC system is taking to ensure that every member of that community is taken care of. Keeping the tuition and fees the same is going to ensure that the UCI campus can continue to operate during one of the most complex and unpredictable years in the history of the modern world.
David Andrews is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.