Tuition fees in the age of Zoom University

Students all over Quebec asking for universities to Lower tuition

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, universities all over Canada and the world have shifted to online learning.

Multiple petitions to lower the online semester’s tuition at Concordia are making their way through our Facebook feeds.

The first petition, created by Yuvraj Singh Athwal, has a goal of 1,500 signatures, and has around 1,200. The second petition, created by a group of anonymous Concordia Students, has a goal of 1,000 signatures, and currently has around 700.

Due to this very necessary shift into the online world, students have lost in-person access to many resources which, for many, are a crucial part of the typical university experience.

Athwal, the organizer of the ‘Reduce tuition fees due to online classes’ petition, explains in the description, “None of the students are using any of the university resources including libraries, labs etc. Also, the learning experience with online classes is not even comparable to that with in-person classes which is more dynamic and life-like.”

The second petition remains similar, stating in its description, “This substantial change is having an immense impact on the quality of our education. In-person interactions, facilities and resources represent a great part of our learning experience.”

In-person resources can include library study spaces, clubs, gyms, labs, certain food experiences, and most importantly the social context of university.  However, it is important to note that on certain occasions labs are open, and students can reserve in-person study spaces at the library.

In the petition description, Concordia students go on to say, “Students are required to work from home, in confined spaces where distractions are prominent and exchange of ideas nonexistent.”

Students have written comments on the petition explaining their frustrations with the cost of this unique semester. Student Leila Beyea wrote, “Finding a job during this has been so hard, and I just don’t have $10,000 to spend on a year of school where I don’t even get to meet anyone or see the school.”

In addition to the petition, a class-action lawsuit has been brought forward by the law firm Jean-François Bertrand Avocats Inc., with Claudia Larose, a student at Laval University, as a representative.

According to Flavie Garceau-Bolduc, a lawyer on the case, “[The class-action lawsuit] is a request for a reimbursement of the perceived cost of university for the Winter 2020 semester. The students — when enrolling to courses — had certain expectations in terms of the services they’d have access to. Without going into specifics, this can include libraries, gyms, and study rooms. This also encompasses the social context for which students pay. So when [students] cover their academic costs, it’s not only for classes but for much more than that.”

In its first stages, and still waiting for approval from the Quebec judiciary system, the lawsuit seeks retribution of damages of $30 per credit for each student enrolled in the Winter 2020 semester.

Garceau-Bolduc said, “Instead of each student taking judicial action against universities to ask for reimbursements […] we take on that burden collectively for the students. This avoids overworking the tribunals, but also avoids individual costs for each student looking for retribution of damages. It’s really a procedure which has the objective to give access to justice for all citizens looking to recuperate these damages.”


Visuals by Taylor Reddam

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