Suffolk University tuition pays for more than classroom time

Students at Suffolk University are still pondering what the value of online education truly is as their financial burdens and insecurities grow amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

Suffolk, like many universities, has value propositions. The university sells not only a degree and the credits that come with it, but also the college experience. Now that most classes are currently online,  students, including myself, are obligated to ask “Is it worth it?”

According to Melinda Ngo, a first-year student at Suffolk, a different approach to the argument should be considered. She noted that education is worth at least $10, 000. 

“It is necessary to have high tuitions to keep students at high expectations,” said Ngo. “If we are not having in-person experience, what are we paying for?”

Taking an opposing stance, undergraduate student Joseph Steffey thinks of this situation as a cost-benefit analysis. 

“I think that people should reduce tuition for online students but not for on-campus students. Suffolk University has bills to pay, like testing kits,” said Steffey.

Aleksandra Christie, an international student from Switzerland, expressed her frustration with learning online. She said she decided to attend Suffolk for its inclusivity, but is saddened by the restrictions that the university has put in place due to the pandemic. 

“It is unreasonable for colleges in America to be so expensive,” said Christie. “I know that people are getting along on campus, but I get a bit left out. It is not the same.”

As an international student myself, I also feel this way. I am already physically half of the world away from campus,  and now with only Zoom classes, I am no doubt reliving the song “So Far Away” by Carole King. Even though COVID is more prevalent in the U.S. than Thailand, there is a sense of exclusivity with in-person students’ tuition overall. This is due to the fact that I am paying just as much as on-campus students, but not receiving the same level of college experience.

According to another Suffolk student, in-person tuition should not be the same as online tuition. 

“I’m not a supporter of free college. I feel like there will be lots of taxation but I am a supporter of reduced education,” said an anonymous undergraduate student.  “It’s a rip-off and a scam. I am paying to sit in front of the screen.” 

It is also vital to note that Suffolk was number 19  on the 2019 “The Least Happy Students” list, which is created by the Princeton Review. The most common reasons people choose Suffolk University are because of financial aid and its location in Boston which makes it even more interesting that some remain unhappy.

Despite being a sticker-price college, Suffolk does give some students a break, more or less. According to the university’s website, it spends $142 million in aid awarded to undergraduate students each year, and  92% of all new undergraduate students receive financial aid.

On July 27, Suffolk’s Student Government Association held a forum with the administration for a discussion regarding tuition and fee costs during the pandemic. Since its motto is transparency, the university clarifies some of the ways they can help such as financial appeal forms and the Suffolk CARES program.

“Because of the increased financial burdens, the decisions that we made and the Board of Trustees made was to increase the pool of funds available for financial aid,” Suffolk President Marisa J. Kelly said at the meeting.

However, Suffolk’s administration did not lower tuition for the Fall 2020 semester.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 42% of the revenue of private colleges comes from alternative sources, while 39% are from tuition and fees and 19% are from the government. 

Kelly explained at the forum that if Suffolk had decided on an immediate reduction in tuition, each student’s FAFSA would have to be evaluated and students might have ended up with lower aids. One thing that is in the way of tuition reduction is the multi-year budget that the university has set in advance pre-COVID.

At the end of the day, Suffolk is not free nor has its tuition been reduced, pipe dream or not. All we can do is take advantage of the benefits and opportunities that the university has provided for us, physically or virtually. But while Suffolk has every right to decide on its tuition, students should still have every right to better college experiences, or lower tuition if that’s not what they are getting.