California state university system to continue virtual learning, students demand reduced fees and tuition

Posted at 9:34 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 12:35:08-04

It's only October but the nation's largest university system - the Cal State system - has already canceled most in-person classes for the entire year. Amanda Brandeis talked to experts who weigh in on whether this is just the first domino to fall and how soon other colleges might make their own decisions.

With no sign of extinguishing the virus in sight what was once a temporary situation now feels more permanent. Sitting at home, more than 500 miles away from campus, San Diego State University student Kelsey Santin says her hopes for a normal college experience seem all but lost.

"I really only got one good semester when everything was normal, and it was fantastic. It is a huge letdown, it does not feel the same."

After losing access to resources like the library and health center, Santin started a petition calling for reduced fees and tuition.

"The quality is severely diminished. That's not to say the professors aren't doing their best but you can't expect to take the way education has worked for years and completely change it and expect it to go without a hitch."

Those concerns are now reinforced with the California State University system announcing its 23 CSU campuses will remain dark this fall and all spring long.

"I wasn't that surprised because the virus doesn't look like it's going away any time soon and the conditions for Spring look like the conditions for Fall," said Robert Kelchen, Associate Professor at Seton Hall University.

Kelchin has been tracking college reopening plans.

"The advantage of deciding early is colleges have a lot of time to prepare classes the way they want to be fully online and get it the best they can be."

But as colleges face massive financial hits, while struggling to maintain enrollment, Kelchin says it's unlikely other colleges will solidify spring plans this soon.

"If the fall is any indication, there will be some colleges that will try to come back in person and then fail spectacularly right before or right at the beginning of the term."

The pandemic has cost the CSU system an estimated $750 million and Kelchin said professors at his New Jersey university have taken pay cuts.

"For most colleges that make it through, they'll have to make cuts. They've already laid off quite a few people, will cut academic programs that are small or expensive to run."

And while virtual college classes still put students on the path to a degree, students like Santin believe their losses should be accounted for.

"We understand why the education needed to change, why the style had to change. But we don't understand if the product changed why wouldn't the price change as well."