COVID-19: Students Petition for Lowered Spring Fees in Response to Online Course Transition

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Students at UC San Diego created a petition to lower the Spring Quarter student fees the day after the UCSD administration announced that spring classes would be offered almost exclusively online in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. At the time of this article’s publication, the petition had over 11,500 signatures.

The petition, which was started by Jessica Liang, a Sixth College senior, argues that the university should lower certain student fees that amount to $4,817.22 for in-state students and $14,735.22 for out of state students. The fees include tuition, transportation, student activities, and events.

“Since [classes] in spring 2020 would all be online, I found a lot of UCSD students complained about that,” Liang said in an interview with the UCSD Guardian. “First, they think it is not worth [it] to pay such high tuition for online classes. Second, many of our students, similar to me, want to ask for recommendation letters from professors. It becomes hard to do now.”

Liang explained that the decision to put out the petition was easy to make, although she was hesitant at first because she is not a native English speaker.

“I [was] a little worried about my grammar when I wrote the petition,” Liang said. “But I think the numbers can tell the story. So I just put out what is on my student bill. And I posted the petition to some student groups on FB. After that, the number of signatures increased rapidly.”

Liang said that while the university has not reached out to her about the petition, she hopes that the administration will reduce fees and take extra precautions to further limit any exposure for students and faculty to COVID-19, while also taking a chance to expand upon the university’s future online course offerings.

“From the other perspective, it may be a chance for UCSD to innovate,” Liang said. “There are a lot of universities [that] provide online classes already. Maybe we could learn from them. It could also enhance educational equality.”

Nicolette Olivia Le, an Earl Warren College junior, sent an email to the university arguing that fees all non-tuition and non-coursework related fees, which amount to $999.98, should be either reduced or refunded entirely to the student body. Her email, which was published to Twitter, has garnered over 11,400 likes and 2,800 retweets.

“I thought it was unfair and I mentioned it to a few friends over text and they agreed with what I was saying, so I put together the email and asked them to send something in too,” Le said in an interview with the Guardian. “The decision to post it on Twitter wasn’t anything I thought about seriously. I tweet a lot and my tweets regularly get like 5 likes, so I definitely wasn’t expecting anything like this to happen.”

Le said that she has not received a response from the university. Likewise, Le’s email was not created in conjunction with Liang’s petition. However, Le pinned the petition to her tweet after her post began to gain traction.

While the university has made no official statements as to whether or not any student fees will be reduced or refunded, UCSD Student Financial Solutions sent out an email to the student body encouraging students to sign up for direct deposit in the event that student account refunds will be dispersed on Wednesday, March 11. However, a university spokesperson told the Guardian that the timing of the email was purely coincidental.

“This message was intended for students that may receive financial aid refunds or stipend payments or have an overpayment on their account,” the spokesperson said. “This is part of a direct deposit campaign so that students don’t have to wait for a paper check to arrive in the mail.”

The university spokesperson also stated that while no decisions on a student fee refund or reduction have been made, clarity on the situation will likely come in the coming weeks, as these types of decisions are generally made on a systemwide level.

As of the time of this article’s publication, no student fee refunds or reductions have been announced, and the university has not publicly responded to the petition.

Photo by McKenna Johnson for the UCSD Guardian.

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