By Haley Bartlett, Editor-in-Chief
In my almost four years at UTC, I have had many trivial thoughts on where the priorities of those in charge truly lie; and the more time spent on campus and in my position on a student media board, I am continually met with the same answer: money.
It’s no secret that universities across the board have a focal point of money nor that students face a sort of unspoken expectation of paying for an overpriced education as they try to gain some sort of break in the world with a degree. It would be unfair to not keep that injustice already in mind when it comes to the way UTC handles the financial side of operating, but in the same breath, the shadiness and lack of understanding I have faced during the entirety of my education will not go unnoticed or unspoken either.
The world is in chaos right now, and there is no certainty in any situation (especially those that involve money in the current state of not only our nation during the pandemic, but in the financial crisis affecting everyone to some extent as well). As a student who pays for an education on my own and has worked to acquire scholarships and other opportunities for aid, it becomes laughable that during a time of utter crisis, UTC once again fails to understand or sympathize with its “valued” students.
When the pandemic forced closures, it was difficult to blame the lack of response on UTC’s part in terms of refunds—even though I don’t believe they were as fair as they could have been—assuredly, this pandemic was something no one could plan for as of last March. However, with months to plan and work through the best option for students financially, the school’s refund agreement leaves a bitter taste in my mouth for a few reasons. All students, regardless of their economic standing, were forced to agree to the following statement before they were able to access their financial information recently:
“I understand that the University’s tuition and mandatory fees will be the same regardless of whether classes and other educational experiences are face-to-face or online, and that the University will not be refunding (or pro-rating) any tuition or fees in the event that the University decides to move classes and other educational experiences to an online or other format.”
Further along in the agreement that was forced upon every student to accept, it states that refunds of any kind will not be given past September 14th even if closures were to take place. The sheer lack of fairness in this agreement slaps each student in the face, considering that since we have been back on campus, there have been a series of emails concerning positive cases on campus, including a possible outbreak and contact tracing from those who went to the bookstore.
It doesn’t take a scientist to know that the facade of us being able to return to “normal” and have in-person classes won’t last much longer, and it would be foolish to think that this agreement is anything but an empty promise of giving at least a little back to its students who are already sacrificing a decent educational environment. With UTC’s history of taking care of its students financially, no one would be shocked if the university waited to close its doors on September 15th and completely escape the possibility of having to refund a dime.
When I brought this agreement up to Chancellor Steven Angle, I was met with an even bigger disappointment in our leadership as he said the University looked at what was fair. He went on to discuss that the school had done a good deed by allowing those enrolled in on-campus housing to back out of their assignments up until move-in day without penalty.
“If our policy was something you weren’t comfortable with then you didn’t have to stay in our housing…you could go somewhere else,” he said.
Angle further explained that the school found students still wanting to live on campus to utilize the amenities and resources given to them. While I am sure that is true, the amount of students I know who only have the option for on-campus housing solely based on affordability is a large number due to the fact that financial aid and loans can cover housing, so students struggling or without work don’t have to worry about paying rent each month.
In a time of COVID, one thing remains certain to me: the University’s number one priority is saving itself before saving its students.