Students pushback against online course fees meant to pay for technology, faculty training

The $70 fee replaces the $123.79 undergraduate and $148.70 graduate online class fees. (Archive photo by Kandace Griffin | Collegian Media Group)

As part of the university’s plan to return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some courses usually taught in-person were forced into an online-only or hybrid setting.

With that shift to different course modalities came a new fee structure for online courses. The $70 per credit hour fee for online classes will fund technology infrastructure improvements, faculty salaries and faculty training among other things, vice president for communications and marketing Jeff Morris said.

The $70 per credit hour fee replaces the regular $123.79 undergraduate and $148.70 graduate online class fees.

“Understanding that more students will be taking online courses due to the changes in course schedules, we have significantly reduced the online fees for the 2020-2021 academic year,” Morris said.

Madison Brown, senior in finance and Privilege Fee Committee chair, said online classes were not an easy adjustment for professors this spring, so she sees why extra training may be necessary.

“Hopefully using this training is going to better prepare professors who are going to be teaching classes online in the fall, as well as if the university does have to go online again due to the coronavirus,” Brown said.

Still, some students are unhappy paying an extra $70 per credit hour for online classes originally scheduled to be taught on campus. Jazz Loffredo, senior in computer science and math, created a petition after he learned about the unexpected online fees.

“I felt that somebody needed to take some form of action,” Loffredo said.

Loffredo’s petition is not the only one: There is a second petition authored by K-State Students with over 1,600 signatures. Loffredo’s had just over 200 signatures at the time of this article’s publication.

Loffredo said his frustration stems from administration having “no transparency” with the fees.

Another concern for Cameron Koger, junior in marketing and Student Governing Association student finance director, is that students don’t have a say if classes are online or in person, and therefore can’t always avoid extra fees.

“I think they lowered it with the expectation that by lowering it, it will appear that we are doing all that we can,” Koger said. “And while I do think that they are taking strides to not raise tuition and keep fees flat, charging for courses that are online is not equitable.”

While Brown sees the value of the fee, she still doesn’t necessarily agree with it.

“My main problem with it right now is going to be the technology improvement,” Brown said. “I don’t necessarily see [why] this is being put on online students. This is a fee that is increasing technology in all of K-State’s classes, which in my mind would mean that it’s a fee that is given to all students. Right now, I think students who are taking online classes are disproportionately affected by this.”

Loffredo and Koger don’t believe the fee should be removed, but possibly reduced.

“I think there should be discussion about ways that we can navigate this pandemic while also not offloading that cost on to students and penalizing them for something that’s out of their control,” Loffredo said.

Koger said he is in favor of giving students a prorated refund if classes revert to the online format partially through the semester. However, the university previously said no refunds would be given.

Loffredo said he plans to email the petition to President Richard Myers soon with a list of concerns he has regarding the fees. Members of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, which Loffredo is a member of, plan to do the same.

While students are disappointed to pay extra fees and take classes online they weren’t expecting, Brown said knowing where her money is going is beneficial.

“At least we know where the money is going,” she said. “But I think it’s still kind of disappointing that this is something that has to be put on students because I would have hoped that this continual technology improvement and things would be something that the university was already doing and wouldn’t necessarily have to be completely funded by students through this online fee.”

Morris said K-State understands difficulties students are facing and “is committed doing everything possible to help our community persist and come through this time together.”

My name is Bailey Britton and I am the former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I have been the assistant news editor and the managing editor. I have also interned for the Manhattan Mercury and the Colby Free Press. I grew up in Colby, Kansas, and I am a junior in journalism and English. Through the Collegian, I aim to provide the K-State community with quality news coverage while we learn to serve our campus.