August 7, 2020 at 9:52 pm PDT | by Noah Christiansen
Students shouldn’t have to pay full tuition in a pandemic
LGBTQ students, gay news, Washington Blade

Noah Christiansen (Photo courtesy Christiansen)

(Editor’s note: As more universities and colleges across the United States cancel in-person instruction in favor of online classes as a result of the surge in coronavirus cases, especially among younger adults, there is a growing call for deep discounts in tuition.

Students, parents and some educators point out that without the in-person interaction between faculty and students, the reality is not what most say is what they are paying for and is a significant part of the college experience.

The schools say that the institutions are suffering a significant loss of revenue. American University’s Sylvia M. Burwell told NBC News on Aug. 2, that AU is projected to lose nearly $27 million from increased expenses and reduced revenues as a result of its response to the coronavirus.

For LGBTQ students, many of whom rely on financial aid, grants, and other assistance due to oftentimes not having parents or other family willing to underwrite or assist in expenses, not receiving a financial break is daunting.

The Los Angeles Blade asked Noah Christiansen, a queer sophomore at California State University, Long Beach where he is matriculating in Political Science to offer his take on the issue.)

Life, as I have experienced it thus far, has been very difficult because I grew up knowing that I was different. I recently finished my freshman year of college at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and it was a year full of ups and downs. Although I did some amazing things this past year such as giving a TedTalk and maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I also encountered many difficulties – the global pandemic being one of them.

Many people think of college students as young kids who only need to focus on keeping their grades up and to not die from alcohol poisoning, but a lot of us are facing difficult life choices that have the potential to impact us for the rest of our lives. I need to focus on my tutoring job, my rent being paid on time, my grades, and figure out who I am as a person in this world all while living through a pandemic.
Attending my university (in person) was a great experience, which allowed me to engage with people from many different walks of life and it allowed me to be more comfortable with who I was, which was well worth the price of tuition. But times have changed. Who really knows when we’ll be back in person?
The pandemic not allowing us to physically attend school is in itself a stressful experience, but while the world seems to be falling apart, colleges and universities all across the United States are charging full price for tuition even though most colleges and universities have transitioned to online courses.
Although it is quite upsetting that all of my classes are now over Zoom, I fully understand that this is what has to happen. All of us should be coming together to combat this virus and flatten the curve, so it is something that I am willing to accept.

What I do not understand is that in a world where funds are tighter than ever, I still have to pay full price tuition even though I am not given access to all of the things that my tuition covers. It is almost as if colleges and universities forgot that students still have to pay other bills in the midst of the pandemic. It is quite upsetting that I have to pay the same price for a lower quality education – and I am not just talking about the display resolution from my laptop. There is a litany of problems with teaching over Zoom. Internet problems, the condition of one’s computer, easy access to cheating, lack of social interaction, and Zoom fatigue are all problems that make a high-quality education a lot more difficult in a world of solely teaching over Zoom. Again, it is something that has to happen, but there is a big debate over whether or not tuition should remain the same.

We students should not have to pay the full price of tuition for this quality of education and due to the fact that part of my tuition goes toward campus buildings, programs, etc., that I am not given access to due to COVID-19.

It is understandable that the university still needs to do some renovations and potential beautification projects, but if we are not given access to the university resources, then why should the students carry the burden of providing these things? This question becomes especially important in the LGBTQ+ community where money may be more of an issue for people.

For many individuals in this community, money is something that is of high importance because they do not have the same accessibility to it compared with their colleagues. Many students in college rely on their families to help them with funding, but for many LGBTQ+ people it is impossible to receive help from their family members because they have been disowned due to their sexual or gender identity.

The university only exacerbates these inequalities in a world where they charge full tuition considering that the queer community does not have access to these facilities when they need it the most.

There have been many studies showing mental health disparities in the LGBTQ+ community and COVID-19 only highlights these disparities. Universities do not help with these disparities by charging full price for tuition when the queer students don’t have access to these facilities.

We may not have grown up in the most loving households, so the university is a space where we have the ability to engage with people who are just like us. The queer community at CSULB is one that I think should be at the forefront of this discussion because we need to recognize who the pandemic and university actions affect the most – which is us.

 

Noah Christiansen is a sophomore at California State University, Long Beach.

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