Paid homework program Quest raises financial concerns for UT-Austin students

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Photo Credit: Sylvia Asuncion-Crabb | Daily Texan Staff

Required homework programs such as Quest can be a financial burden during the pandemic, some students say.

Quest, a UT-developed homework and testing service, has been a staple in introductory science and math courses since its development in the late ‘80s, said Shane Lewis, Quest senior project manager. Each course is $30 per semester, and students are only required to pay for two courses per semester even if they are enrolled in more than two courses using Quest, according to the Quest website. 

“We’re used by 20 external colleges and about 600 high schools, mostly for (Advanced Placement) math and sciences courses,” Lewis said.

Biology freshman Amaka Okafor said paying $30 for a single course on Quest is a far bigger burden for her now than when it was free for her in high school.

“I’m sure there are students that have parents that lost their jobs, and for me, on top of paying thousands for tuition, why should I have to pay $30 for one semester for a course during this time?” Okafor said. 

 

Okafor said Quest is unnecessary because most online learning materials for her classes are on Canvas.

“We have extra credit assignments and tests every other week (on Quest), but most learning is done through Canvas modules and lectures,” Okafor said. “I prefer Canvas since every lecture, module and textbook material is available, and the only perk to Quest were their practice problems.”

Since the program is self-funded and receives no revenue from tuition, the charge is necessary for maintenance, Lewis said. 

“The fees paid to Quest are necessary to support costs related to staff, ongoing maintenance and development of additional programming,” Lewis said. “Where there is instructional use of Quest, this allows many students to save (money) in courses where online content was able to replace textbooks or allow them to be designated as optional.” 

Lewis said students can refer to financial aid or apply for student emergency funding if they need help paying Quest fees.  

Physics professor Xiaoqin Elaine Li said Quest is a good fit for online learning and helps prevent academic dishonesty through its randomized question bank. 

“Over the summer, we were offered another company service that requires (more) student payment, but then we kept in mind student finances and recognized that Quest has all the fundamental parts for a platform that works,” Li said.