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Students petition to lower cost of spring 2022 semester amid month of virtual classes

Petition receives nearly 400 signatures and backing from some student government members

Students are asking American University administrators to lower the cost of the spring 2022 tuition in a petition that began Jan. 10, citing virtual classes and reduced dining options throughout January.

The petition followed President Sylvia Burwell’s announcement that the University will not provide discounted tuition or housing in a Jan. 10 email, despite transitioning to online learning for the month.

The students who created the petition wrote in its description that the University should reduce tuition costs to reflect the time students will spend learning remotely, as well as housing and dining expenses for students who pay for these services and will not be utilizing them to their full extent throughout January.

In a Dec. 29 email, President Burwell announced that residence halls would open on schedule and students can return to campus as needed. However, she encouraged students to stay at home to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The petition proposed a reduced cost of housing for students not returning to live on campus by Jan. 10. 

Elizabeth Deal, assistant vice president for community and internal communications, said that there is no tuition discount because the shift is temporary.

“Given that classes are proceeding on our original calendar, the campus is operating with services available, and the move to online operations is temporary, there is no tuition discount or prorated fees for housing or meal plans associated with this brief shift,” Deal wrote in an email to The Eagle. 

The petition’s creator also suggested alternatives to financial compensation, such as opening more of the campus dining venues instead of reducing the cost of meal plans. Currently, the campus dining options available seven days a week are Terrace Dining Hall and Subway, while DC Eats and Build Pizza both opened with limited hours earlier this week.

Miles Levin, Class of 2025 Student Government Senator, called for a town hall meeting with President Burwell and members of the community to discuss student concerns, inspired by SG President Chyna Brodie’s recent question and answer session.

In an Instagram post Wednesday, Levin wrote that Burwell has “failed low-income students,” among other disadvantaged groups. He said he wants the AU administration to listen to students’ needs and show more transparency.

“We have students living at home, not eating AU’s food, not living in their dorms, but they have to pay the same amount of money that they’d pay if they were living at AU,” Levin told The Eagle. “A lot of the restaurants on campus are closed. At TDR, you don’t get the whole dining experience. [The administration] is making us pay for things we don’t currently have access to.”

Levin said he received an email from the AU administration confirming that they received his suggestion for a town hall meeting in an Instagram post Thursday.

The School of International Service Undergraduate Council also released a statement on its Instagram Wednesday advocating for reduced tuition. The post calls for the AU administration to enact a “proportional discount” on this semester’s tuition, citing the 10 percent tuition discount for the 2020-2021 academic year, which took place virtually.

“There’s been a lot of disappointment on campus about the decision not to reduce tuition, both on the undergraduate side and the graduate side,” Matthew Low, president of the SIS Undergraduate Council, told The Eagle. “We do not feel that we are getting the most bang for our buck when we pay roughly $60,000 a year and classes go online.”

Deal said that many facets of campus life are up and running.

“Our residence halls are open, and on-campus residential students may return at a time of their choosing. Students will have their full bank of meal plan swipes and EagleBucks available throughout the spring semester,” Deal said. “We are providing the same high-quality educational opportunities and student services in a virtual format this month and will resume in-person learning on Jan. 31 as planned.” 

zbell@theeagleonline.com


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