College during COVID-19

A+student+does+classes+on+her+computer+in+the+PUB.

Keri Kelly

A student does classes on her computer in the PUB.

By Karlee Van De Venter, Arts and Features Editor

There’s no denying that the college experience has drastically changed from what it was before March 2020. The old stereotypical college day no longer consists of fighting to stay awake in a lecture hall, eating dining hall food, going on campus walks, long study sessions in the library and ending it all by letting loose with friends. 

Nowadays, it’s turning off the camera and microphone on Zoom, always eating at home, exercising at home, studying at home, working at home and talking to friends from home. These are just some of the consequences of  COVID-19 taking the world by storm for a college kid. With everything the college experience has lost, many are asking if college prices are worth it anymore. 

The majority of colleges across the country did not offer a price reduction for tuition during COVID-19. At EWU, the tuition was raised by roughly two percent, and many previous fees are still active. Students are paying a PUB fee, a URC fee, technology fee and comprehensive health fee along with tuition. On-campus students also have fees for their room and meal plan. 

The PUB fee is $85 each quarter, or $127.50 each semester. Students and community members alike have access to the Pence Union Building during operational hours. For winter 2021, the hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends. In previous years, the PUB had stayed open a few hours later depending on the day. All food sold inside is offered only as take-out. There are limited seating options and masks must be worn when not eating or drinking actively. The Game Room and Technology Center are both closed. Other offices in the building have remote or limited services, which can be found on office websites. 

Freshman skating club president Samantha Vo glides on the ice in the URC on Jan. 24 2019. Vo competed in figure skating until she was injured at 16 years old. (Bailey Monteith)

The URC fee is $65 each quarter, or $97.50 each semester. The URC and EWU’s other athletic buildings were mostly closed over spring, summer and fall quarters. The URC re-opened Jan. 13. Only the Fitness Center and the Climbing Wall will be open, allowing a maximum of 20 people and one person, respectively. All other amenities within the URC will remain closed, including locker access. Enrolled students can now make appointments to use the two available amenities. Previously, there was a walk-in policy for students, who could bring guests for an additional cost. Community members, alumni and faculty could pay for membership access as well, but that won’t be available until there is full URC access. 

The technology fee is $40 each quarter, or $60 each semester. This fee is to cover costs of internet access, school emails, computer labs, multimedia stations and computer software. Internet access is still available on campus for students and school email accounts are still active. Many computer labs are unavailable for now. EWU does have a program for students in need of assistance during primarily online classes. Students can fill out a form requesting materials or additional help. 

The comprehensive student health fee is $127 each quarter, or $190.50 each semester. This is a basic insurance plan through Multicare Rockwood Clinic locations in Cheney, Spokane and Airway Heights. Their services remain active. 

Tuition rates vary based on each individual’s standing as a student, how many credits they take, the kind of classes they’re in and more. However, there was generally an additional fee for online classes in the past, which has been waived. 

Students who choose to study in the PUB must wear a mask and sit at a table 6 feet apart from other visitors. (Keri Kelly)

EWU Tuition rates site: Students that are taking regular courses on the Cheney or Riverpoint campus’s are eligible to take on-line learning courses at the same rate as regular courses.  There will be a $35.00 service fee per credit ($52.50/credit for semester students).” 

Max Flex info site: reduced online rates 

 

In the past, there has also been a transportation fee of $25 each quarter, or $37.50 each semester. This was waived for fall quarter 2020 and winter 2021. This fee usually gives students access to Spokane and Cheney buses through their Eagle card. The buses have been operating on non-school schedules through the pandemic. Students can still use their Eagle card for bus transportation, but the routes and times are different.

For students living on campus, there’s also room and meal plan fees. These varied by multiple factors before COVID-19. However, residence life at the moment is quite different than before as well. Students are not permitted roommates, they can request that someone is near them, but there are no shared rooms. Common areas are closed off, or have furniture inside closed off, and are cleaned daily. Kitchens and laundry rooms are limited to one person at a time, using sign-up times. Guests are monitored and students must wear masks whenever outside of their rooms. There have been some virtual events for students to socialize. 

Dining plans come in two options, rather than the previous four. Winter quarter 2021 will offer four dining locations; Panda Express, Einstein Bros Bagels, Union Market and Freshens, which has moved to the Union Market. 

The 2021 price breakdown for residence halls and meal plans can be found here

A line of students at Panda Express, one of the several new dining options in the PUB. It is located on the first floor of the PUB. (Photo taken in 2019) (Mckenzie Ford)

While technically unofficial data, out of curiosity I asked my personal Instagram followers if college is worth it during a pandemic. Out of 75 votes, 50 said no. Half of the 25 “yes” answers were from EWU students. Nineteen EWU students said no. 

I included an option for people to explain why or why not, and received feedback from students all over. Some mentioned professors and expectations being unrealistic or unaccommodating. Some mentioned their tuition staying the same while their experiences aren’t as good. Some said they just don’t learn or retain information with online classes. 

A few EWU students specifically mentioned losing their motivation due to increased challenges and poor application and concept. 

However, some students said that, depending on the situation, it can be worth it. Some mentioned hybrid learning and being kept busy. A few near-graduates explained they’re too close to the end to quit now. But most people believed that online only works for some people and for some education. Some hands-on majors shouldn’t be learning online, according to these students, because it will affect them in the field. But for certain things, with the right people, it can work out. 

In response to COVID-19 safety measures, the college experience has drastically changed, and EWU isn’t exempt. Students have been evaluating what has changed in the past year; unfortunately, high costs aren’t part of that. Many of the amenities advertised as “free with tuition,” or “free for students,” aren’t available for anyone right now. Yet tuition rates and additional fees do not reflect those changes. 

According to EWU, students legally agree to pay these fees on a recurring basis. Despite many of the amenities paid for by those fees no longer being open to students, there still are costs, and the university is allowed to charge students for that. 

But still, students can’t help but wonder if the change in amenities should come with a change in fees and tuition. With the quality of education decreasing for many, the uncertainties adding up and the loss of many previous resources, to be sent with a bill higher than or equal to previous years, universities everywhere are being evaluated and critiqued by students in a new light.