As Ontario universities and colleges continue to operate online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students feel their education is diminishing in quality while fees remain the same.
Many students have been vocal online about the cost of tuition Since post-secondary institutions began delivering classes remotely in early 2020. Popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have been flooded with students demanding lower fees for what they believe to be a less comprehensive education, and to help them in financially tumultuous times.
Several petitions calling upon universities to lower tuition payments were made on the popular petition site Change.org. One of the most successful petitions, which was launched by Carleton University student Jasmine Doobay-Joseph in 2020, has surpassed its goal of more than 7,500 signatures.
The petition, which is addressed to Doug Ford, states that students are not able to “explore the campus, clubs, lectures, or meet new people. Therefore, paying the full tuition fee is unreasonable.”
“I didn’t think it was fair for students to be paying for tuition fees if we are not receiving the experience that we were promised,” Doobay-Joseph said in an email interview.
Many Ontario universities and colleges have responded to these demands in official statements, saying that the quality of education is not wavering as a result of the pandemic and that remote learning is a costly system that requires regular tuition to properly execute.
Sandy Welsh, vice-provost, students, at the University of Toronto, said the school will not be reducing tuition fees in an interview with writer Paul Fraumeni published in September, 2020.
“We are offering a full calendar of academic programming this year led by our dedicated faculty members and instructors,” Welsh said. “We have also invested heavily to create a new kind of learning experience that’s tailored to the realities of COVID-19.”
Carleton University also released an official statement last March regarding its decision, writing that “designing virtual classrooms and online opportunities for students requires multi-million-dollar investments in technology and experts to deliver the high-quality experience our students expect and deserve.”
The pandemic has caused financial uncertainty for many Ontarians, leading some students to believe schools should adjust pricing to alleviate some of the burden.
At the end of her petition, Doobay-Joseph asks schools to “please consider and think about the students and families who cannot afford the fees during this unprecedented time.”