By Liam Benedict
In the United States, people from many walks of life have had their plans for the future dashed by COVID-19. People have lost out on highly anticipated family reunions, vacations, weddings and funerals. But by far the biggest impacted group, in terms of plan cancellation, belongs to the class of 2020, my own cursed generation.
Thousands upon thousands of my fellow classmates and I lost out on our senior celebrations. We did not get to walk across the grand stage with our diplomas, waving to the hundreds of parents in the audience.
I picked up my diploma in a drive-through.
Without a tender, fun-filled goodbye, my classmates and I were sent off to the next stage of our education: College.
The deep emotional pain of being deprived of our long-promised college experience may never heal. Unfortunately, the unimpressive education and high financial costs of attending school at this moment sting even more than that.
Many of the lawsuits are aimed at UC universities, such as UC San Diego. But the trend is wide-reaching as it ranges to private colleges and even monolithic Ivy League schools dealing with cases.
To be clear, it is not that the plaintiff is upset that the universities have decided to end in-person classes due to COVID-19. It is in the best interests of everyone’s health that such in-person meetings are avoided. It is the fact that the quality of education has decreased, and yet the costs haven’t.
I, for one, feel that the plaintiff’s actions are perfectly justified. There are several legitimate grounds for the lawsuit.
One of the many plaintiffs is, in fact, a UC Davis student: Clair Brandmeyer, a junior psychology major. She feels that students are owed at least $1,100 for some of the things students are not being allowed to use.
Claire points out in the ABC 7 news article that many students are still “paying for library fees, for the in-campus gym, paying for the pool, paying for all these things that we would normally get to use on campus.” But not anymore. With those resources no longer available, the costs need to be changed in order to reflect that.
Another student at UC Irvine, sophomore Rosie Oganesian, has started the petition “No Students Left Behind,” urging universities to lower tuition fees during the pandemic. Her exasperation is clearly expressed in the Spectrum News article, where she explains, “I am so stressed. It’s so difficult to study online… It’s just frustrating to see how if it’s all online if we can’t go to class, we still have to pay for those amenities that we’re not using.”
Although the gracious spirit of Oganesian is admirable, several students do not think it is enough to enact real change. That is why the lawsuit continues to increase substantially in scale.
Another side of the issue is that students feel their degrees are worthless now that they are partially online.
Haley Martinez and Matthew Sheridan are UC San Diego students leading a suit against their school, arguing that they are not receiving what they paid for, and thus the university is unjustly enriching themselves. After all, the students have stated they “contracted and paid for an education, not course credits,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
The evidence is provided by UC San Diego themselves. There, a master’s degree in healthcare informatics costs $1,580 per unit for on-campus classes, while the online classes cost $925 per unit. The students are also receiving fewer hours of instruction and days of classes than promised, according to the lawsuit.
If these cases go through, they could have big effects on the college world. There are a few class-action lawsuits going on already. The LA Times reports that if more of the cases facing the UC system are certified as class actions, they could involve nearly 750,000 students and millions of dollars.
Representatives from the school systems have argued that the schools are forced to spend more during COVID-19; and I don’t doubt that they’re right.
However, many people doubt the direness of the school’s finances.
Moze Cowper, a partner of the firm leading one of the class action lawsuits, says that the universities can afford a reduction. As Spectrum News reports: “A lot of those folks are racking up major tuition and student fee bills that by the way, [add] insult to injury. They are going to end up paying interest on for the next 25 years.”
Ultimately, I just want the universities to do right by their students. I know they can’t give back everything the class of 2020 has lost, but they should at least try to lessen our financial suffering as we continue to push onward during this pandemic.
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