Anna Fisher – Staff Writer
This semester is marked by change: virtual classes, distanced athletics, frequent reminders to wear masks. However, tuition, housing, and course fees have not changed. Students may wonder why these charges are the same as last fall when the traditional college experience has been altered.
“I don’t think it’s fair, because we got a lot less resources, we got a lot less help,” said Samantha Jendras, a sophomore majoring in English with minors in Education and Music.“How are we supposed to get the most out of our education?”
“It is a challenge to pay for school, and I feel like, especially this semester, you’re paying to be frustrated,” Jendras said.
Professors have also acknowledged the semester’s limitations.
“Students are paying a lot of money to come to school, and it should be an excellent experience, but it should be an understandable, exceptional experience in the context of the pandemic,” said Dr. Phil Hardy, Political Science Department Chair.
The Provost, Dr. Ken Newbold, also weighed in.
“Is it the full online, on-grounds experience? No, but as we focus on safety and keeping our community as safe as possible, I think that’s always been our priority while trying to build a robust and rigorous academic program for our students,” he said.
To aid experience and education, Benedictine received just over three million dollars from the CARES Act passed by Congress in March. Half of this aid went to students, as required by law.
“There were two different parts to CARES. The first part went directly to students,” said Karen Campana, Chief Enrollment and Retention Officer, “We had to get you that money as quickly as possible.”
The second half went to student funding, protective materials, and seminars for faculty preparing to return to campus, according to Campana.
Benedictine’s quarterly CARES budget report shows how this second half was used:
● 12.2 percent was spent on PPE, shields, dividers, hand sanitizer dispensers, and signs
● 17.6 percent was spent on software licenses, classroom audio enhancements, laptops for online instruction, and increases in section numbers
● 65.7 percent was spent on student refunds for portions of the spring room and board
● 4.5 percent of funds were not allotted in the breakdown
Campana also shared areas where tuition was applied this year.
“Having a Zoom platform for all of our students comes at a cost to the institution,” Campana said, “There’s signage on campus, there’s air filtration systems in place, there are PPEs like large plexiglass.” Added to this are costs for facilities, paychecks, and course materials.
Another factor to consider: BenU’s yearly tuition is $32,700. This amount is almost $5,000 under the average tuition for a 4-year non-profit private school, according to the College Board.
“There has been some talk about another stimulus package, another CARES Act,” said Newbold, “We are waiting to see what may happen into a new Congress in January.”
“Students are receiving the same credit, you’re receiving the same degree,” said Campana, stressing that classes on transcripts won’t be considered ‘lesser’ by future employers.
In addition, Campana emphasized the University’s desire to help, “If anyone is needing extra assistance, raise your hand, not only in classes, but also health-wise” she said, listing resources like tutoring, laptop loans, scholarships, and the Learning Center study spaces.
Hardy offered encouragement despite the struggle, “I’m an exceptionally proud Benedictine community member. Let’s have our chins up and our chests out and our shoulders back,” he said, “We’re doing a lot of stuff right, but we’re doing it in the context of a pandemic.”