This story has been updated since it was first posted.
More than 4,600 people are lobbying Auburn University to drop the out-of-state fees for non-Alabama residents for 2020-21 for online classes.
Student Zoe Sagon wants to make it clear that she and the other supporters of the Change.org petition love Auburn University, and they don’t want to go anywhere else.
“I want to initiate change for my fellow students, to feel they are heard and their families matter to the university that they love,” said the third-year student from Fayetteville, Ga.
The petition reads, in part: “Due to the financial losses and the devastation to the true college experience (thanks to COVID-19), we are asking Auburn University to waive the large out-of-state tuition costs of the online classes a large majority of their students will be subject to taking.”
Some of the signatories said waiving the fees would be a way for the university to reciprocate the affection these students show by choosing to leave their states and go to school at Auburn.
“It’s more of a respect thing than a financial thing,” said Tyler Ray, a marketing and finance major from Decatur, Ill., “but obviously money is a big part of it … we’re all struggling.”
Not same experience
Sagon said she and others are paying extra for an experience they wouldn’t get if the campus closes down again, or even if some classes are pushed to the internet.
The interior-design major said much of the value of her field of study comes from networking and team projects — both of which would be degraded if done online.
“Pretty much all my projects are some kind of group projects and I need feedback as soon as possible,” Sagon said. “I spoke to my fellow students and they pointed out that when we were switched online, we had to do an email if we had any questions about anything. Our professor would maybe get back that day, if not the next day, and then by the time they responded it set us back countless hours.”
That is a commonly expressed concern.
“I like being able to ask for opinions on the spot and that my professor is readily available for any questions if they arise. With online learning, if I did something wrong and asked about the problem, it was already too late ... fixing the problem could really delay my progress on the project,” said Yemiah Viniece, a Montgomery native and interior-design major who signed the petition in support of her classmates.
And they’re paying more than in-state students for the same experience.
“That’s extremely detrimental to these families that are already paying out-of-state tuition — the difference between (in-state and out-of-state fees) is like $25,000. So, if classes actually do go online, we are in the same shoes as students sitting in Alabama taking the same online classes. I just don’t feel that’s fair,” Sagon said.
Auburn University spokesman Brian Keeter said that the tuition rate is not based on where or how students receive academic instruction.
“The out-of-state tuition rate is based on providing Auburn’s exceptional academic and experiential learning programs, regardless of the method of instruction or the student’s location,” he said.
“Also, it’s important to note that four methods of course delivery are offered this fall, so students may choose according to their preferences and best interests,” Keeter added.
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