CHICO — Thousands of Chico State students have expressed disdain toward campus administrators for their handling of COVID-19.
Two announcements from President Gayle Hutchinson that seemed contradictory left students reeling.
As of Sunday, over 4,000 students, a whole quarter of the student population, have signed a petition demanding that Chico State lower its tuition to make amends.
On Dec. 9, Hutchinson announced that the California State University system was planning for anticipated return to in-person courses come fall 2021.
“This, of course, is welcome news and points to a favorable picture of our future,” she wrote. “Chico State’s Emergency Operations Center continues its planning for fall 2021 with the goal of having the majority of our on-campus experiences returning.”
On Feb. 9, exactly two months later, Hutchinson made another announcement about the fall semester.
“Guidelines currently indicate approximately 20-30% of fall 2021 course sections will be offered in-person or blended (partially in-person), with a priority given to classes with experiential learning. The remainder of classes will be held fully online,” she wrote.
Over the last academic year, tuition for full-time students was over $7,000.
The petition maker wrote, “Everyday I drive past Notre Dame Elementary School, just a mere four blocks from the Chico State campus and see hundreds of kids playing in the schoolyard. Why is it that they can go to school and their tiny administration can figure out a way to continue in-person learning but our California State (University) institution cannot?”
Back in July 2020, this newspaper spoke to Michael Uhlemkamp who works in public affairs for the Office of the Chancellor.
He explained that the two big revenue drivers for the university’s budget are student tuition and state funding, with less than half coming from tuition. The trustees establish systemwide tuition and the fees are mandatory.
Annually, each student pays $5,732. From that point, campuses have specific fees, which are tied to their programmatic offerings. Those include health centers, lab materials, etc. That’s why some campuses have higher tuition than others.
“From the student perspective … ‘I pay X and I receive services of A, B, C, D. Now, I’m still going to pay X, but might not get D,’” Uhlemkamp said. “That line of logic makes sense, but the caveats with this are that you’re paying for tuition fees. You’re not paying for the experience. You’re paying for instruction.”
Fees such as faculty salary, university maintenance and building mortgages are fixed. To the petition signers, their quality of education has been drastically decreased.
“The online education that I have experienced during the past academic year pales in comparison to the in-person learning that we received before. I think that I speak for the majority of the student body when I say that I feel behind in almost every aspect of my education because of online learning,” the petition author wrote.
“Though I am not sure if this petition will have any effect on the outcome of the fall 2021 semester, it is important that we stand together in solidarity and do not let our voices go unheard.”