An online petition circulating among students at Michigan State is calling on the university to partially refund their spring semester tuition, as in-person classes have been suspended and moved online in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Online courses are proven to not be as effective at material delivery as in person instructed classes," the petition reads. "If students wanted online instruction, there are much more affordable colleges that offer online classes. Why should students pay full price for a lower quality education?"
The petition also addresses the inability for students to continue using MSU facilities and on-campus resources during this time, which part of tuition goes toward maintaining and providing.
One of its creators, an MSU senior who declined to give her name in order to protect her job, said although she's proud of what the university administration has done so far, she feels they should consider giving students a portion of their money back in response to how classes — especially labs — have changed.
“In no way at all do we have any problems with the way MSU has handled the situation,” she said. “Going to MSU, I paid significant amounts of money to come here versus smaller schools that don’t have the ability to have the kind of labs MSU has. ... Now that the facilities are no longer in use, we can’t use the computer labs. Some of the programs that were on the computer labs, they're not accessible to us anymore.”
She also said many seniors' capstone projects have been negatively affected by students no longer being able to use MSU’s facilities.
“The opportunities that MSU has granted us, if we were to be there and not have online classes, they're just being cut short,” she said. “And that’s what a lot of the tuition that we pay goes toward — some of these opportunities for us as students.”
As of April 3, 1,290 people have signed the online petition, many of whom left comments sharing how switching to online has hurt them.
Environmental economics and management sophomore Julie Barber said she feels frustrated having to pay out-of-state tuition for online classes, and is glad someone started a petition pushing for a refund on services that have been altered or suspended.
“I no longer have the convenience of going to the Olin Health (Center), or going to help rooms for my classes or meeting in-person with my advisors,” Barber said.
University spokesperson Dan Olsen said the administration has recognized the difficulties students are experiencing during this time and has offered repayments in other ways.
“At this point, MSU has not made the decision to refund tuition since classes are continuing virtually through the end of the semester,” he said via email. “However, there are credits and refunds being made available to students for portions of already paid funds for some on-campus services and programs, including on-campus housing, parking and IM programs that carry a fee to participate."
In addition to monetary reimbursements, Olsen noted the university has offered its students the option to be graded on a satisfactory/not satisfactory scale.
The online petition is close to its goal of 1,500 signatures.
"Although the shutdown is not the fault of MSU, the students should not have to pay the price for the nation wide shut down," according to the petition.