The empty campus that’s usually bustling with students has them asking why should they continue to pay for something that isn’t being used? Photo by Lauren DeMaria.

No gathering in the Piazza between classes, no line at Starbucks, no Sunday night Greek gatherings. All that great Chapman University experience got replaced this Fall Semester by Zoom Nation. So you would expect maybe a little break on tuition, right?

Well, guess again.  

Even with petitions, blasts on social media, and students complaining — howling their complaints, Chapman did not lower tuition. In fact, it even went up four percent, the standard annual raise. For a full-time student, the price now clocks in at $56,830. Not counting special fees for some classes.

Students now know they’re yelling into the abyss over this.

Jack Mullinkosson, from the class of 2020, is among those who find it frustrating.

“It made me pretty angry to hear that they weren’t reducing tuition because it’s so clear that the quality of education has gone down” said Mulinkosson. 

Chapman students are not alone in this feeling. The summer of 2020 saw all major colleges and universities in southern California go online. Yet none of them have offered any sort of financial compensation for this. 

The University of Southern California was sued and students that attend the University of California schools spoke up about their disappointment, but no one has seen a reduction in tuition. In fact, like Chapman, USC, and the UC school system have all increased tuition and housing costs for this academic year. 

For the 2020 school year, Chapman increased tuition by about 4 percent from the previous year. Chapman student body president Philip Goodrich explained the difficulty the SGA faced when trying to get the university to stop this incremental increase. 

“We brought this issue up in a meeting and it wasn’t really received well. I think a better way of putting it was they made up their mind before that meeting,” Goodrich said. “We tried again in other conversations with administrators but in the end it was – we assessed it as an issue that was not going to be resolved.”

Many of the complaints about the cost of tuition have been about the quality of the online education provided. In the spring, Chapman’s President, Daniele Struppa, made it clear that he too believes the in-person component is a vital part of the Chapman experience.

“It [online schooling] has really crystalized for me the importance of the personalized experience we pride ourselves on at Chapman. It is because of the importance of that experience that we are doing everything we can to bring the community back together as soon as it’s safe to do so,” said Struppa in an email on April 24, 2020.

Despite this admittance, the administration is adamant that the same quality of education is being given and therefore no reimbursement is needed. Executive Vice President Harold Hewitt explained that there is no room in the budget to cut costs. 

A brief breakdown of where students’ tuition money is going. This shows how expenses and revenues for the university have changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The university has spent over $2 million on COVID tests for students and faculty, remodeling classrooms to be ready for in-person and hybrid instruction, and all other precautions necessary for reopening. This, along with Chapman’s commitment to retaining its staff, has limited the amount of wiggle room in its budget. “We retained all but 7 employees out of the entire employment force,” Hewitt said. “We took other measures to save jobs… That in turn has permitted us to keep everyone employed whereas many, many colleges and universities are not doing that.”

While there is no doubt that an extensive amount of work has been done by the university, students do not agree that they should be charged for resources they can not use. Some of this frustration has boiled over into the creation of petitions requesting a partial refund from Chapman. 

Though they list these demands, the petitions do not have a specific amount or goal they are looking for. Some requested to be partially reimbursed and some called out the university’s moral obligation to the students. One student, Lewis Gehami, specifically requested $5,000 as a minimum for what he’d be happy with receiving. Many others have used the comments as a place to air their grievances. 

“Both of my parents became unemployed due to the pandemic and I am currently working two jobs in hopes of making enough money to get through the school year, but it looks like I will not be able to attend Chapman next year with the money my parents and I are trying to pull together” wrote Fiona Burrows.

This sentiment is echoed by hundreds of people in the comments. Parents, grandparents, and other family members also took to the petition to tell of their financial struggles. Because of hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of tuition is becoming a burden for families. 

Christine Yu and Adriana Ferrari both showed their anger over tuition costs in the comments section of the petition.

These people represent a group of vocal and more extreme students, but there are some that are more neutral. Jordan Sunada, a sophomore business administration major, described her experience so far as unenjoyable and difficult. Since she is currently living in Hawaii, she has to deal with a three hour time difference. However, she recognizes how hard it is for professors as well.

“Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday I have class at 6 a.m. and every Tuesday, Thursday I have class at 5:30 a.m.,” Sunada said. “It’s kind of hard to say [if the price of tuition is fair] because there’s only so much that teachers can do online. I give them so much credit because they’ve changed their entire curriculum, they’ve changed the way that they teach us, and I’m very appreciative of them because they are also so accommodating.”

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