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Vermont colleges to charge same tuition for online and in-person classes

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 8:50 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 3, 2020 at 10:59 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - College students are getting ready for the fall semester and some Vermont schools are charging the same tuition whether in-person or online.

“We’re not in person getting the same experience,” said Grace Kay, a senior at the University of Vermont.

Seniors we spoke with say if they choose to stay home and learn online, they will miss out on experiences like on-campus activities and in-class collaborations.

The one thing that remains the same for some students, though, is the price tag for tuition.

“I think that it shouldn’t be the same price; we aren’t getting the same education that we do in person and you’re not getting one-on-one experience with your teachers,” said Kay.

Some local colleges are giving professors and students the option to teach and learn either entirely online or through a hybrid of remote and in-person courses.

Champlain College, UVM, Northern Vermont University and Middlebury College are each approaching the semester with different education models, all with a focus on flexibility.

And whether in-person or online, all of those schools are charging the same.

“What is college life going to consist of in the fall? Is it going to be you in your dorm room a lot of the time, taking courses online? That’s a very high possibility for a lot of students,” said Benjy Renton, a senior at Middlebury College.

Renton acknowledges the fall semester will look anything but normal. He recognizes money is tight for students and families but he also sympathizes with schools feeling the financial pinch caused by COVID-19.

“I think colleges, no matter what their financial health, are in dire straights and I hope students can understand that,” said Renton.

The four colleges WCAX reached out to declined to do interviews but responded in statements saying they are working hard to ensure every student’s educational experience will be as valuable as it would during a traditional semester.

And that’s why they plan to charge the same price.

Middlebury College says the costs have increased due to the pandemic and say they will continue to deliver the “high-quality academic programs and services that our students and their families expect from a Middlebury education.”

“The faculty and administration of our schools are deeply committed to enriching in-person, virtual, and hybrid instruction so that students receive the benefits accruing from a rigorous academic experience complemented by a compelling community experience,” said officials at Middlebury College in a statement.

UVM responded by saying they created their “at-home” option to give students and families another option.

“The ‘at-home’ option is not a cost-saving device and will not save the university money. Students who choose the ‘at-home’ option will receive a high-quality educational experience that will allow them to continue their academic progress while they stay at home. Students who choose the ‘at-home’ option also will continue to receive support services from the university, including advising, academic support, and career and other services,” said UVM officials in a statement.

Champlain College says their Flex-Hybrid model “re-creates the community and academic opportunities of a traditional on-campus student experience while allowing for maximum flexibility to participate virtually and in some cases, in the classroom as well.”

Northern Vermont University said in a statement after WCAX’s piece aired, “Faculty have been working hard to prepare for a variety of teaching methods, including in-person, hybrid, remote, and online modalities. In addition to this preparation, NVU faculty have done professional development over the summer to ensure they will bring the same high-quality instruction to remote teaching methods if remote teaching is necessary. Additionally, we are working to make the student life experience a robust one within the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and Vermont Department of Health.”

But students are critical of the quality of online courses versus in-person.

Many argue if they can’t learn in a traditional manner, they shouldn’t pay the traditional price.

“I think they could be doing a little bit more to accommodate the students who are not able to return to Burlington, who choose the online option, because it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in my opinion that they are paying for the same service and not going to be receiving the service that they are paying for,” said Jake Spiegler, a senior at UVM.

And for students like Chris Bouzakis, a senior at Northern Vermont University, the lack of hands-on experience that a Zoom class lacks could affect him down the line.

”You’re lacking that original education that you’re paying for. You’re not getting that in-class experience, you’re not getting the teachers, you’re not getting what you paid for and what you went to school for,” said Bouzakis. “You know I’m not going to be able to learn what I need to learn just sitting at home in front of a computer all day.”

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