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UW-Madison students gear up for remote courses, question why tuition isn’t any cheaper

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – As students moved in Tuesday to a campus offering more remote classes, some UW-Madison students questioned why tuition isn’t any cheaper.

“I do feel like it’s a little unfair because we don’t really have access to the same resources as before,” junior Elaine Zheng said. “It’s harder for us to talk to professors now or get help from TAs [teacher’s assistants].”

Zheng, like other full-time, in-state students, are paying upwards of $5,300 for the semester. She is paying just $8 more than what she paid last fall, though her entire course load is online.

Karl Scholz, the university provost, explained that costs to deliver instruction during this pandemic have actually increased.

He said, “To meet the challenge of enhancing the quality of instruction, we have invested aggressively to improve course design and remote learning experiences. We are also investing heavily to lessen risk on campus, developing a rigorous approach to COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and putting more resources toward campus health services and student support.”

Zheng is using her own savings to pay for the semester. But as a majority of her bill is covered by an outside scholarship, she said she is more concerned about her out-of-state and international peers, who are expected to pay at least $19,300 to the school.

In addition to tuition, students are charged segregated fees, which go towards student services, activities, programs and facilities. According to the university website, students must pay about $730 in segregated fees this semester, which will pay for access to gyms, a free bus pass, among others.

“For bus passes, I think a lot of students may feel uncomfortable riding the bus during a situation that we are facing,” Zheng said. “Why are we paying for stuff we probably won’t use. [There’s] just a lot of question marks that I don’t know how to get answered.”

A university spokesperson wrote to NBC15 that segregated fees fund both ongoing operations and services and new campus facilities.

“Since the campus went virtual in March, we’ve made sure all students continue to have access to many of the services provided by segregated fees in a virtual way,” the spokesperson said, listing University Health Services, campus bus service, the Union and fitness centers, as options that are open both in person and virtually.

Helping his son move into a dorm, Cory Huffmann said he is “fully expecting” to see his son again before Thanksgiving. When that happens, Huffmann said he wants to ask the school for money back.

“I think that’s a fair ask of the university,” he said. “I’m not sure how willing they are going to be to do that, but I would definitely be looking to ask that question.”

Fall classes begin September 2.

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