CU Boulder Buffaloes mascot in mask

University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes mascot wears a face mask and holds a sign that says, “Protect Our Herd.”

A University of Colorado graduate student is seeking a tuition cut for students at all four campuses, arguing that COVID-19 interruptions have dealt a blow to the value of their education. 

Sophia Volk, who is seeking a master’s degree from the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder, has started a petition drive, “Too Much Tuition, CU.”

Nearly 600 students, parents and other supporters have signed it, agreeing that program changes have made tuition unfair and inequitable, and calling on the CU Board of Regents to lower costs.

“There’s a lot of dissatisfaction,” Volk said. “Most people are frustrated and feel like tuition is biting us in the butt.”

Volk is rallying parents and students to address the Board of Regents at a Nov. 12 meeting. She also is pushing for the Regents to vote on the matter.

But it could be a tough sell.

The Regents earlier this semester rejected on a 4-5 vote a proposal that would have provided a tuition credit of $1,000 per semester for full-time students and $500 for part-time students.

"It's challenging to get everybody on the same page," said Regent Heidi Ganahl, an at-large Republican who brought forth the first resolution. "I still think a rebate or refund is what students want, but is it realistic we can get the votes to pass it? Probably not."

Regent Chance Hill, a Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District, said in an email that he previously voted in favor of a tuition reduction for this school year and “will do so again if comes up for another vote.”

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs junior Brian Marquez, a baseball player studying accounting, has taken out loans to pay for this year’s $15,000 tuition bill, which doesn’t include housing. A break on tuition would lighten his debt load.

“This is the one thing that can be done to reduce some stress that has been created because of this hectic and crazy year for students in Colorado,” he said.

And with the majority of his classes being taught online, Marquez said he feels “students are at a big disadvantage to learning certain material.”

“I have been struggling to teach myself the material because we do not get the face-to-face teaching and interaction like other students have gotten in the past,” he said.

Volk’s petition does not state a specific amount of reimbursement, but she is promoting a 20% tuition reduction across the board for the summer, fall and spring semesters. She also wants student activity fees that aren’t currently benefiting students removed.

Volk arrived at that rate after reading studies that show public universities spend 80% of tuition on actual instruction.

CU Boulder students disappointed, angry with university’s COVID-19 response

The CU system, the state’s largest public university with  four campuses, started the school year with hybrid in-person and remote-learning courses.

But what became one of the state’s largest single COVID-19 outbreak last month with nearly 1,550 students and staff members infected led the CU Boulder campus to switch to remote-instruction only for more than three weeks, and under public health orders instituted stay-at-home orders for anyone aged 18 to 22 living in Boulder.

Officials said at the time the university would not give any tuition or fee refunds because of the switch  to online classes.

Volk said she has been doing remote learning since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March. She’s paying $56,000 in tuition over the course of the two-year MBA program.

She said she moved to Colorado from San Diego because Boulder has one of the “best in-person business schools” in the nation.

“That’s why I chose the program,” she said. “I know myself, and I can’t study online and retain as much information.

“It’s time CU takes its obligation to students into account and compensate what they fairly owe.”

Ganahl said she's working to see if there's any "common ground" system leaders can agree on.

The student-led petition is at  https://forms.gle/2yNP4FF8f7itZRBF9.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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