Frustration with education during the COVID-19 pandemic

When coronavirus derailed the Spring 2020 semester, it fostered debate over the quality and cost of online education.

ISE Lab room
Kirk Smith/THE REVIEW
When coronavirus derailed the Spring 2020 semester, it fostered debate over the quality and cost of online education.

BY
Contributing Reporter

When coronavirus derailed the Spring 2020 semester, it fostered debate over the quality and cost of online education.

While the finish line of this global disaster remains hidden, school is back in session. Universities have worked to provide their professors with adequate training and resources to provide a great online learning experience. Though many empathize with their predicament, some students and parents still have frustrations over the quality of learning and the price tag that comes with it.

“I definitely think the school should have lowered the tuition, just because we’re not getting the same experiences that we would have,” Julia Adamkiewicz, a senior double majoring in criminal justice and human services, said. “We’re not using school facilities or resources that they provide us.”

Adamkiewicz touched upon the weaknesses of online learning, critiquing the absence of the one-on-one experience between professors and students that in-person learning was able to provide.

“It’s definitely a better experience having the teacher there, [so] that you can ask questions and just make connections with your teacher, which I think definitely helps enhance learning,” Adamkiewicz said.

Emma Hackett, a graduate student studying elementary education, said that she does not feel Zoom provides her with the tools to succeed after graduation.

“I’m paying for the experience of teaching kids in a classroom setting and being able to work and interact closely with them, but I’m not really getting any of that through my computer screen at the kitchen table,” Hackett said.

Her mother, Kristen Hackett, shares her daughter’s concerns about her education.

“Her student teaching assignments were canceled senior year, and her graduate student teaching is online, which is not providing her with the experience she needs for her career,” Kristen Hackett said. “We understand why things have been structured this way, but no — this is absolutely not the experience we are paying for.”

Though many families are hurting financially right now, the university is also in trouble. In an email sent to the university community on Sept. 24, university President Dennis Assanis said that the school is facing a loss of up to $288 million due to the pandemic.

“I know that the university’s probably struggling right now, and if it’s a matter of keeping around a couple of my teachers, then I’m okay paying full tuition,” Gavin Reynolds, a senior triple language major, said. “I got that side of things, but obviously it’s frustrating.”

A number of students and parents, though frustrated with tuition prices, acknowledge these hardships and are understanding of the difficulties that the university faces in trying to provide a quality education online while still mitigating their losses.

Janice Carey, a former elementary school teacher, discussed how she believes the current form of online education is lacking in comparison to pre-pandemic, in-person classes.

“Delivering the same quality of education over the internet is definitely not possible,” Janice Carey, whose son Tom Carey studies food and agriculture marketing and management at the university, said. “Humans are built to learn through other humans, especially through traditional education. I am grateful for the continued education that my son is getting; however, in my opinion the quality is not the same.”

Many feel that the cost to attend school should reflect the drop in the quality of education.

“I feel like it would have been a good thing if they did change tuition,” Brianna Krebs, a junior double majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and agriculture and natural resources, said. “I know a lot of other state schools did so that out-of-state kids are getting in-state tuition, so I feel like that would have been a great thing — but also, there’s a lot of pay cuts with employees, so I feel like there has to be some type of happy medium.”

Some universities around the country, including Washington State University-Vancouver, currently offer in-state tuition prices to some out-of-state students in hopes of promoting growth in enrollment and providing an education to people who otherwise could not afford it right now.

“A number of students and their parents have offered their thoughts on this issue,” Peter Bothum, a media relations manager at the university, said. “Some have asked why out-of-state students could not obtain in-state tuition rates. The answer is that the university’s in-state tuition rate is lower due to the financial support provided by Delaware taxpayers. UD receives an annual operating appropriation from the state of Delaware, most of which is used to reduce the cost of tuition for Delaware-resident students.”

“We understand times are hard and empathize with families,” Bothum said. “The university has increased financial aid to students for this academic year, dedicating $20 million to help families ensure their students can work toward obtaining their degrees.”

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