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Hundreds of University of Chicago students ‘prepared to withhold tuition’ if they don’t get 50 percent cut

UChicago is ‘on track to be the first university to charge over $100,000 in tuition’

The University of Chicago’s endowment is $8.2 billion, it raised more than $5.4 billion in its most recent campaign, and it just received more than $6 million in coronavirus relief funds.

Students want some of that largesse dedicated to reducing their tuition. Namely, half of it.

More than 1,700 students have signed a petition asking for a 50 percent cut in tuition for “as long as necessary” to help “struggling students and their families” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They say the impact falls disproportionately “on low-income students, students with disabilities, students of color, queer students, students with children, and more,” including international students whose “currencies are falling faster than the dollar.”

While it cites marginalized groups to justify the demands, the petition makes clear it wants the break on tuition, and waiving of “all fees,” for students regardless of the financial aid they receive, retroactive to spring quarter for anyone who already paid. These cuts also “must not come at the cost of payment, benefits, or services for any staff, faculty, or students.”

The university is beyond wealthy enough to meet these terms, they argue, and many students have few other options than relief from the administration:

Full-time students who have lost their off-campus jobs are unable to apply for unemployment, and therefore, have no financial safety net to pay for living expenses and are making increasingly difficult decisions. …

Although instruction has moved online, leaving Chicago is not a feasible solution for many students. Many students have signed year-long leases and do not have the option to move to a lower-cost area during this time. …

Despite the best efforts by instructors, for many students, in-person interaction is integral to their studies. This change in learning format also will highlight deep-seated inequities present in our community, as students have varying access to WiFi and ability to work effectively away from the University.

MORE: Class-action lawsuits demand tuition refunds for COVID-19 changes

They want long-term structural changes as well, including “full budgetary transparency so that students know where resources are being allocated and where they are not,” and the reinstatement of part-time status for undergraduates, which was eliminated four years ago.

Given that UChicago is “on track to be the first university to charge over $100,000 in tuition,” now is the time to institute a long-term tuition freeze, given that the “financial recession caused by the virus … will likely far outlast the health crisis itself.”

If the university doesn’t negotiate with them before the tuition deadline April 29, “many students are prepared to withhold tuition,” the petition concludes. It had 1,715 signatures as of 7 p.m. Monday.

The university gave a statement to a local CBS station earlier this month, saying that it “admits U.S. students without regard to their financial need, meets the full financial need of all students who are admitted, and does not expect students to take out any loans”:

Compared with major four-year universities in Illinois and nationwide, UChicago graduates have among the lowest levels of student debt and exceptional career outcomes, including placement with substantive job opportunities and top graduate programs.

The CBS station reported that the group behind the petition, UChicago for Fair Tuition, said that “more than 350 students” will go on a tuition strike if the university doesn’t negotiate.

UChicago announced last week it won’t raise the “combined total” of tuition, housing and “other miscellaneous fees” for the following school year, according to The Chicago Maroon.

That’s not enough for UChicago for Fair Tuition, which said in a Facebook post Sunday night that it had secured “close to 1000 students committed to or considering” withholding tuition.

Read the petition, CBS and Maroon coverage, and Facebook post.

MORE: Universities evict students suddenly, make them pay to get stuff back

IMAGE: Sandra Matic / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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