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Students urge F&M College to reverse tuition increase amid plans to move fall courses online

Franklin and Marshall College plans to increase tuition, fees, room and board by 3.5% this year, despite plans to move many courses online in the fall semester.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — The coronavirus pandemic derailed spring semester for millions of college students, including Kyle Addis of Radnor Township, Delaware County.

The business major is a rising junior at Franklin and Marshall College. When the school abruptly switched to remote classes due to the threat of COVID-19, Addis said core curriculum was cut from some of the syllabuses.

“In my opinion, it’s nowhere near the same as the in-person setting,” Addis said.

Franklin and Marshall College will switch to a hybrid mode in the fall, with some classes held on campus and others taught remotely. Addis understands the decision is in the interest of the safety of students and faculty—but it takes away what he loves about F&M.

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“That’s one of the reasons why I chose to go to a liberal arts college like F&M,” he added. “They pride themselves on that in-person interaction and experience. The classroom environment is something I wanted to be a part of.”

The college will not be discounting tuition for online courses. Instead, it is doing the opposite. F&M has increased tuition, fees, room and board by 3.5%, prompting Addis to create an online petition urging the college to reconsider that decision.

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The petition has garnered hundreds of signatures. Students argue the tuition increase adds another layer of stress during a global pandemic.

“It’s hard, with so many different financial backgrounds at F&M, to assume that everyone can pay or come back in general, let alone with coronavirus,” said Abby Straub, a sociology major and rising senior at F&M.

In a statement, F&M spokesperson Pete Duratine told FOX43, “Franklin & Marshall College's tuition reflects the high caliber of instruction and mentoring the College provides to each one of its students, which serve them well long after they have graduated.”

However, F&M has never before offered online degrees. Students believe the impact will go far beyond academics.

“Schools will look so different with fewer actives, like sports, clubs and meetings. College isn’t just an academic experience, but a social one as well,” said Straub. “When you pay the tuition, you pay for all of that so it’s going to end up looking a lot different.”

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There is another online petition calling for a tuition decrease at Millersville University. The school is moving half of its classes online in the fall. Dining halls will lean towards grab-and-go options and visitors of students will be limited to those that reside in the same residence hall.

Tuition cuts are unlikely at Millersville University because 75% of university costs come from tuition and fees, according to spokesperson Janet Kacskos. She said they have no plans to cut faculty and are still reeling from paying out millions of dollars in refunds for the spring semester.

Kacskos said there are two major funds designed to help students with educational costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are encouraged to apply for assistance from the CARES Relief Fund and EPPIIC Student Compassion Fund.

Here is the full statement from Franklin & Marshall College:

We respect the students' right to organize and petition. At the same time, Franklin & Marshall College's tuition reflects the high caliber of instruction and mentoring the College provides to each one of its students, which serve them well long after they have graduated. F&M continues to provide full need-based financial aid for admitted students for the four years of their undergraduate studies with us, and is working with families as necessary to adjust that aid as required.

We will not be discounting tuition for next year.  A large majority of our students have the option to come live and study on campus this fall. The hybrid mode of delivery we have decided on to deliver our curriculum will have the characteristic “high impact” elements of an F&M education. While the experience on campus will be different from residential life in a more normal year, it will be multi-faceted, with many of the usual elements of campus in place, including social, extracurricular, and recreational activities, academic enrichment, tutoring, advising, career services, wellness center, and counseling services.

We are investing a great deal in equipment, tech capability, personnel, modification to spaces, and so on, to adapt to the necessary safety protocols and to make sure that the learning environment respects all guidelines for safety and allows for the collaboration and mentoring that define our approach to learning.

We are taking family finances into consideration in other ways. There is no extra cost for the new, month-long “J-term” in January, which will allow students to get ahead by a course if they so choose.

Visit F&M’s website for more information on the college’s fall reopening plan.