Up to 40 percent of undergraduate students, including all first year students and those who “must be on campus to progress academically,” will be invited to live on campus this fall, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow and two other deans wrote in a Monday statement. “Students will learn remotely, whether or not they live on campus.”
If Harvard manages to maintain 40 percent student population density into the spring semester, it would then bring seniors back to campus in the spring, with freshmen students returning home, “unless public health conditions improve or worsen.” Under this plan, sophomores and juniors would learn remotely for the entire academic year.
The administrators wrote that tuition at the Ivy League school will not be lowered, although enrolled students living off-campus don’t have to pay for room and board. The undergraduate tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year costs $49,653, slightly higher than the 2019-2020 rate.
Rather than reducing tuition costs, the administrators said that all enrolled undergraduate students who spend both semesters learning away from campus will be able to take two summer courses in 2021 without tuition charges.
“The recent upturn in Covid-19 cases in certain states illustrates the difficulty of making predictions, even well-informed ones, about the evolution of this virus,” the administrators wrote. “Given this uncertainty, we determined that our fall plan must enable us to bring back as many students as possible while providing sufficient margin to accommodate an escalation in the prevalence of COVID-19 in our area. Anything less and we could find ourselves again facing the prospect of asking our students to leave, on short notice, prior to the end of the semester.”
The decision to fix tuition rates come as students across the United States express concerns about tuition not adding up to the education the universities have promised before the pandemic. Some students, including those from Harvard, filed lawsuits against their schools, demanding lowered tuition for classes that have been shifted online.
In May, a Harvard Law student filed a class action against the university, alleging in the suit that the services Harvard has provided this spring are not sufficient for what students have paid. Citing the difference in cost for Harvard’s in-person and online classes, the student said that online learning experiences during the campus shutdown are “not even remotely worth” the cost of tuition.
“The online learning options being offered to Harvard students are subpar in practically every aspect and a shadow of what they once were, including the lack of facilities, materials, and access to faculty,” the lawsuit reads. “Students have been deprived of the opportunity for collaborative learning and in-person dialogue, feedback, and critique.”