NU undergrads to accept COVID-19 risks, tuition hike before return to campus


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Northwestern is set to increase tuition by 3.5 percent. As the national number of coronavirus cases rises, a number of universities have opted for mostly or entirely online instruction.

Catherine Buchaniec, Reporter

Before returning to campus in September, Northwestern is requiring all undergraduate students to sign the University’s “Student Expectations and COVID-19 Code of Conduct,” acknowledging the University cannot guarantee a coronavirus-free campus.

By signing the agreement, students must also accept risks associated with the virus, including potential long-term health effects, and acknowledge that tuition and fees will not be adjusted, despite the move to mostly online instruction.

Announced in a July 31 email from Vice President for Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, the move is coupled with a mandated 30 minute training module for all students, faculty and staff. NU isn’t alone. Across the country, many colleges have implemented contracts similar to the University’s as a condition to return to campus.

“It is critical that we each take responsibility for maintaining the health of our community,” Payne-Kirchmeier wrote. “As a condition of returning to campus, students, faculty and staff are required to follow policies, protocols and guidance designed to protect everyone’s health.”

Students agreeing to the expectations acknowledge that they “share the responsibility for minimizing risk of exposure to and spread of COVID-19,” and understand that “much of the nature of the COVID-19 virus is still unknown (including potential long term health effects), and Northwestern cannot control risks associated with COVID-19.”

Furthermore, the form also requires students to acknowledge that the University “may need to make sudden changes to the campus environment” which may impact students’ experience. In the event that sudden changes are made, the form says students must understand that tuition and fees will not be refunded or prorated, even if in-person events shift online.

According to the agreement, tuition and fees will also not be adjusted if students choose to take remote courses.

In April, University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily in an email that no other schools offered tuition refunds due to the shift to online classes. Considering students are still receiving access to “world-class” faculty, he said full tuition is appropriate.

As the national number of COVID-19 cases rises, more universities have opted for mostly or entirely online instruction. Some colleges have thus reduced tuition costs.

In August, John Hopkins University became the latest in a group of universities offering a 10 percent reduction in tuition. Princeton University, American University and Lafayette College previously announced their intention to reduce tuition by the same amount.

In contrast, NU is set to increase tuition by 3.5 percent, bringing its 2020-21 tuition to $58,227 from last year’s $56,232. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania State University have all announced a tuition freeze for the fall.

NU community members may face disciplinary actions if they do not review and agree to the set of community expectations, according to the July 31 email. Furthermore, students may encounter difficulties registering for fall classes if they do not sign the agreement.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @caty_buchaniec

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