Columbia university students threaten to withhold ‘exorbitant’ tuition next semester citing hardship amid pandemic

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More than 1,400 Columbia University students are threatening non-payment of school fees next semester, claiming the “exorbitant” fees are increasing their financial hardship amid the coronavirus pandemic

In a signed petition, the students called on the school authorities to “alleviate the economic burden on students” by reducing the cost of attendance by 10% while also increasing financial aid by 10%.

The students are also asking the school authorities to replace the school’s work-study program so students will “automatically” be given that portion of their financial aid rather than paying it off through “work-study, summer jobs, or other means.”

“We are calling for 1) the cost of attendance (including tuition, fees, and room & board) to be reduced by at least 10%, 2) financial aid to be increased by at least 10%, and 3) the “student responsibility” to be replaced by grants”, the organizers wrote in the petition.

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“By replacing the “student responsibility” with grants, we mean that students will automatically be given this portion of their financial aid as a grant, rather than having to pay through work-study, summer jobs, or other means”, they wrote.

The organizers stated that their current school fees of over $30,000 per semester, “constitute a significant source of financial hardship during this economic depression,” adding that the Ivy League school in New York City is one of the most expensive universities in the nation.

The school authorities told FOX Business that undergraduate tuition this year was frozen in response to the pandemic and remains at $58,920 for the 2020–2021 academic year.

Still, students argued the “financial burden posed by high school fees and student debt” is greater than ever before due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic recession.

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“We are calling for a tuition reduction partly because of the challenges, equity issues, and diminished educational quality entailed by remote classes,” organizers wrote.

“The mission of our tuition strike is to make Columbia work for the needs of its students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the surrounding community,” Townesend Nelson, one of the petition’s organizers, said.

A spokesperson for the Columbia University reportedly said that the school “has remained focused on preserving the health and safety of our community, fulfilling our commitment to anti-racism, providing the education sought by our students, and continuing the scientific and other research needed to overcome society’s serious challenges.”

Since the pandemic, students have written many petitions askimg for tuition reimbursement or a future reduction in school fees.

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In July this year, Columbia College Chicago signed a petition calling for “a 40% negotiable discount to the projected tuition or a temporary freeze until a solid discount can be instituted.”

This demand would change undergraduates’ tuition rate from the previously announced $13,571 to $8,143 and graduates’ from $14,364 to $8,619, according to the petition.

“We understand that these are confusing times … we are facing an economic downturn,” the petition states. “A lot of aspects of how to go about higher education is up in the air. The students that make this college [what it is] every year deserve relief in these times more than ever.”

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