Over 6,500 students have signed a petition calling for the University to lower tuition for the fall 2020 semester as of Monday.
After the University’s fall plans were released June 29, UT Interim President Jay Hartzell said the University did not lower tuition for online and hybrid classes because they will still be delivered in a high-quality format. The petition, started by Anthony Yanez, a government and Plan II sophomore, says that many students may not have sufficient access to internet and usual University resources and should not be paying full tuition prices for a mostly online semester.
University spokesperson J.B. Bird said in an email that the University traditionally charges the same tuition for online classes as face-to-face classes. In some cases, hybrid classes — classes that are conducted with some in-person elements and some online — will cost more to produce, he said.
“We recognize that teaching and learning will look different this year and we are working to provide the same high-quality education our students deserve and have long received from world-class faculty members — and to support these students as they earn a UT education and degree that will serve them throughout their lives,” Bird said in the email.
Hartzell announced that about 3,500 of 11,000 fall semester courses would be held online on June 23 after University officials originally estimated that number to be around 2,100.
Bird also said tuition dollars, which make up only 22% of the University’s budget, will support faculty who have to adapt their classes to new guidelines and may be facing their own hardships during the pandemic.
“Support for their work will allow them to continue to prepare the best possible academic experiences, so UT graduates are in a position to pursue meaningful careers and change the world,” Bird said.
Sociology junior Andrew Vo said he doesn’t think online classes warrant full tuition prices because students won’t be getting the most out of their college experience.
“I think UT should really listen to the voices of their students,” Vo said. “A lot of students like myself really rely on face-to-face help with TA’s and professors. Because of that, I really don’t think that full tuition is the right idea moving forward.”
Vo, who signed the petition, said he feels obligated to help his parents financially, and the tuition prices make that harder.
Yanez said a lot of the student body could be economically unstable during the pandemic, and UT should lower tuition to support those students. He said he will not be returning to Austin in the fall since all of his classes are online.
“We don’t know how the pandemic is going to pan out,” Yanez said. “It’s already getting worse. I don’t know how people will be able to afford (tuition and housing) without struggling. It might be more difficult for people to afford (the spring semester) because they used all the money they could get in the fall.”
Bird said with the Texas Advance Commitment expansion last year, students from families earning up to $65,000 a year will have their tuition covered. He said students’ needs may increase because of the pandemic and economic crisis, and the University is committed to fully supporting them.