Credit: Mustang News | File

Grace Kitayama is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News. 

Without warning or blame, COVID-19 has not left a single person unaffected. Cal Poly, much like other colleges and universities worldwide, has reacted by opting to hold classes online. However, the cost of tuition for spring quarter has not changed despite online classes. 

Cal Poly has stepped up to support its students in many ways, such as refunding housing and dining costs, offering credit/no credit classes for spring quarter, waiving late registration fees and being flexible with payment plans for students. Additionally, frequent updates about classes and transparency with what the school is doing during the virus all convey the message that Cal Poly is trying to be a source of certainty in very uncertain times.

Yet, with only approximately 1,200 students still living on campus and a majority of campus facilities shut down or online, students are still paying for more than they are getting back for spring quarter and should receive a partial refund as a result of the quarter being online.

The reason that tuition costs have remained the same for this quarter was explained in an email sent to the student body on April 1.

“Tuition and registration fees are defined by the California State University System as mandatory. These fees – such as ASI, University Union and Health Services – will continue to be assessed at the established quarterly rate based on enrollment. Mandatory fees are required of all students in part to help pay for long-term debt obligations. For example, the University Union fee pays for the Recreation Center loan that allowed the facility to be upgraded and expanded,” the email read.

The page linked in the email shows the breakdown of how tuition for a quarter is spent at Cal Poly and what the money goes towards on campus. The website breaks down the cost into 11 categories (Non-Resident Tuition, Tuition Fee, Campus Academic Fee, Associated Student Fee, Student Success Fee, Instructionally, Related Activities Fee, Health Services Fee, Health Facilities Fee, Cal Poly ID Card and Student Involved and Representation Fee) along with additional fees including Commencement fees for graduating seniors and out-of-state tuition. 

The transition to virtual classes has been the hardest on professors and lecturers who have been forced to convert their entire classes online. I am in no way saying that they should not be paid for their efforts. Additionally, I think all faculty at Cal Poly should receive payment in some way. However, as a result of COVID-19, many employees in the Cal Poly corporation are being temporarily laid off according to an email sent by the CEO and Director of Human Resources of the Cal Poly Corporation on April 1.

“Effective April 6, 2020, we will implement a temporary furlough of student and intermittent employees in the following operations: Campus Dining, Cal Poly Corporation Business Office, MARCOM, Cal Poly Print & Copy, and Conference and Event Planning. This notice is to inform you that as of the date mentioned above you will not be scheduled for any shifts through May 31, 2020. During this period, we will continue to assess future work needs and plan for a time when operations resume,” CEO Lorlie Leetham and associate executive director of human resources Jennifer Wharton wrote.

Despite Cal Poly’s efforts to keep as much of their faculty employed as possible by moving many of their resources online, there are still many aspects of the tuition that students will not experience and are still being charged for. Among these extraneous resources include the Tutoring center, ASI, the Children’s Center, club funds, drama and music productions, art exhibits, agricultural events, intramural sports, club sports and intercollegiate athletics. According to the estimated fees page, this equals to about $476 that could be refunded to students.

About 60 percent of students who attend Cal Poly receive financial aid according to a 2019 article published by the Tribune and low-income members of the U.S. suffer the most from the economic fallout from COVID-19. The University should ease the strain the virus is putting on students in every way possible.

I wish the funds collected by the university were being reallocated to help support and pay for the workers helping the COVID-19 patients who may be occupying the Rec Center next month. Then I personally would feel more comfortable paying the full tuition for the quarter. However, that is not the case and Cal Poly ought to partially refund the students their money in a time where every resource matters.

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