Fort Lauderdale, FL

Governor DeSantis Believes That College Students Forced To Learn Remotely Should Have Tuition Refunded by Universities

Toby Hazlewood

He criticizes heavy handed measures in colleges

Governor Ron DeSantis has said what many university students and their parents were already thinking - that universities that force their students to study via online classes should receive a refund of their tuition. He discussed the subject during a speech at Broward Health in Fort Lauderdale on January 3.

Addressing proposals by various universities around the country to deliver classes online during January while still charging students (and their parents) full-tuition, Gov. DeSantis described the situation as "absolutely insane". He said:

“Our universities are going to be open… they’re going to have in-person instruction. And I think any university that doesn’t do that should have to refund 100% of the tuition to the parents.”

Different responses around the country

Notable schools like Harvard have already committed that teaching will be online-only for three weeks in January. At Stanford, students have two weeks of online lessons after which they'll need to show proof of a vaccine booster shot.

Meanwhile, the University of Florida has issued a statement on its website on December 31 urging caution from returning students, but emphasizing that classes will be taught in person.

There seems to be a growing sense that while the pandemic remains a threat, life must return to normal as much as possible while acknowledging the need to remain cautious. This seems to be embodied in the approach of schools in Florida, but less so in other locations across the USA.

Students want to get back to normal

Meanwhile, there's a sense amongst students that they desperately want to get back to in-person teaching, but also want to receive value for money when it comes to investing in their education.

Given that the cost of a graduate degree from the average degree in the US was around $99,417 (according to a 2018 report by HSBC), students and their parents are entitled to expect the full experience of university in return for the fees. If classes continue to be taught online only, it stands to reason that students should be given a proportionate refund of fees.

This sentiment is echoed in a 2020 survey commissioned by College Pulse and the Charles Koch foundation which concluded that 90% of students feel that they should pay less for online teaching.

Freedom Florida prevails

While Governor DeSantis may be able to influence schools in the state of Florida, his desire for universities to refund fees where classes remain online may not gain traction around the US. This may leave Floridian students who attend schools out of state with little option but to pay up and take whatever teaching is offered.

Time will tell if there are further consequences to Florida schools remaining fully open as teaching gets underway in 2022.

Do you think that universities are entitled to charge full fees for online teaching, or should they charge depending on their offering? Are you a student or the parent of a student affected by such considerations? Let me know in the comments section below.

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