Art students continue to demand tuition reimbursement even as universities refuse

Boston University largely closed down its campus and moved classes online in March due to coronavirus. Henry Zbyszynski/ Flickr

As hundreds of universities across the US are forced to shift classes online and as arts studio programmes and workshops are compromised due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, students are mobilising to demand the full or partial reimbursement of their tuition. Few efforts, however, have yielded positive results, to the financial devastation of many students.

At Boston University—where tuition costs more than $27,000 for full-time students enrolled in the 2019-2020 academic term—visual art students in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programme are one of several groups on campus who have been working to negotiate a refund. This week, they were told that the university president “will not grant our request”, according to a statement forwarded to The Art Newspaper.

Indeed, a letter containing the signatures of more than 80% of students in the programme was rebuked by school representatives last month. “It is in the opinion of the school that, despite not having studios or workshops, our Zoom meetings mean we are still receiving a studio education,” the student organisers say.

They argue that the education being offered “is not transposable to the programming we originally enrolled in—especially in such a short period of time—and students in our last semester have lost critical opportunities, such as final reviews of our cumulative work and thesis exhibitions”.

The university has proposed potentially pushing thesis exhibitions to the fall semester, but this solution does not solve problems for international students with issues of visas and health insurance, nor students who could not afford to remain in Boston for an extended period of time with its incredibly expensive rent, according to the students. Moreover, the university's dorms were evacuated and closed last month as the institution shut down due to coronavirus, displacing many.

“Not all of our cohort even has access to computers or reliable internet connection, let alone stable housing or capacity to generate any kind of work,” the students say.

Meanwhile, students at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where tuition cost more than $38,000 for the 2019-2020 academic term, have launched a website to evaluate the impact of the pandemic on students and demand partial refunds. A survey found that 97% of students disagree that online classes can be equivalent to in-person classes, and that 92% of students believe that the school should provide refunds for the spring quarter.

A representative for the initiative says that the school “has yet to address the project and has shown no interest in negotiating fees reimbursement nor addressing the student bodys concern”, and that, although the community has taken a cordial approach to implore the school to take into account the students demands, “we still have not been given a direct answer”.

On 26 March, SCAD students recorded a meeting with the university ombudswoman, Sophia Alletto, intended to address their concerns, in which Alletto states that there will be no reduced tuition fees.

“Youre still paying for the credit hours that you would any other time, youre still paying for the housing whether on-the-ground or not and youre still paying the faculty to teach the classes, so all those things are what your tuition goes into,” Alletto says in the recording, to which a student responds: “So basically I subscribe and go with it or I go home, which is not an option right now.”

MFA students from Yale Universitys School of Art, where tuition costs more than $39,000 for the 2019-2020 term, are also calling for partial tuition refunds, as TheRead More – Source

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