Leibee: Colorado State owes its students financial answers

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Last week, students at Colorado State University received an email from Provost and Executive Vice President Rick Miranda. The email stated, “Since we anticipate completing the semester of instruction for all our students, tuition and fee refunds are currently not being offered.”

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This came with a lot of questions for some students, especially in regards to student fees. These questions and frustrations are about the student fees that are blatantly not being used by students anymore, but they are still paying for them. 

A full-time student at CSU pays $129.31 for the expenses of the Student Recreation Center. Now that students cannot use that recreation center, they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Further, students pay a $33.65 alternative transportation fee, but they are no longer using alternative transportation because they are not on campus. Students pay $16.07 for recreational sports office operations. Yet, there are no intramural or club sports happening for the rest of the semester.

Students are not asking for all of their fees back, as they are well aware that the University is still providing services even while students are off campus. They are just asking for a return of the services they are clearly not using anymore, and this is not asking for a lot.

Miranda stated in his email, “Any cost savings that we might have had as a result of not using our instructional buildings are more than offset by providing the infrastructure to go online.” This vague sentence fails to include what the “infrastructure” is. If it is Zoom, new Canvas resources or anything else, then that is fine, but he fails to outline what that infrastructure is, how much it costs and how our tuition is now going toward it.

Fourth-year biology major Helena Bittner stated in an email to The Collegian that “College students are facing a crisis right now; there has been no loan forgiveness, no rent freezes, an exclusion from the stimulus package and now an absence of any sort of refund from the school they are hardly attending.”

Although the circumstances that have forced us into online school are out of the University’s control, there is no doubt that the value of our education has decreased.”

If students are not going to be receiving any refund, the very least the University could do is break down and outline exactly where our tuition and fees are now going and how the costs are offset, Bittner said.

“In addition, the University is investing in additional resources to support our students in their success as we deliver academic courses online,” Miranda said in the email. Again, another vague statement with no specifications or clarifications of what these “additional resources” are and how the math adds up that every dollar spent on a normal academic year is still necessary for online learning. 

It is not to say that the University has done nothing.

“We were allowed to move out, and they are refunding us our housing deposit and a partial housing/dining refund for the last eight weeks of the semester (March 22-May 16) unless we had to stay in the halls for an extended amount of time after March 22,” Ashlynn Piwowarczyk, a resident of Newsom Hall, said in an email to The Collegian.

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This was a large concern for students, and housing and dining refunds are what a lot of universities are doing, including the University of Colorado Boulder. 

However, despite those refunds, students that don’t live in residence halls are not receiving anything from the University. The fact of the matter is that online classes are not the same as in-person classes. Students are paying to attend classes in person on a campus. Although the circumstances that have forced us into online school are out of the University’s control, there is no doubt that the value of our education has decreased.

Students created a petition asking for these resources back. Students argue that the student fees that were going to on-campus resources such as the Lory Student Center, Morgan Library and the recreation center are no longer being used, and if those fees were returned to students, they could be better used to help students invest in learning at home. The same goes for student fees paying for the operation expenses of these buildings, but these buildings aren’t operating anymore.

Where have those dollars gone? If you ask Miranda, your money is now going toward “additional resources.” The University owes its students something — if not a partial refund of student fees, then a dollar-by-dollar breakdown of how all of those fees are now being spent on online resources. 

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.