This article was updated at 3:30 p.m. on 7/15 to include an official statement from the university.
Students at EMU have started a petition and planned a protest in opposition to the university's online course fees. The petition is directed towards EMU President James Smith and the Board of Regents and has over 1,600 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
The petition is demanding that the university:
- Waive all fees for all online and hybrid classes for the 2020-21 academic year
- Waive lab and studio fees for any labs that can't meet in person
- Waive the REC/IM fee for every student
- Waive the student teaching fee if schools move online
In an email to students on Wednesday, the EMU addressed several of the concerns raised by students recently. First, they clarified that any class that was originally listed as an in-person classes during registration, that there would be no additional fees if the class is moved online. They noted that the process to analyze factors such as floor space to determine the best method of delivery for each individual course is ongoing, and will continue for the next couple of weeks.
The email also noted that any class originally offered as an online or hybrid course at registration will continue to have the online course fee associated with it.
“Final course delivery determinations for the fall semester, whether in person or virtual/online, are expected to be completed in the coming weeks based on feedback from departments/schools and colleges,“ the email said.
The fee for an online course is set at $80 per credit hour, and the fee for a lab or studio is $0 - $132 depending on the class. After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted in-person classes, EMU announced the EMU CARES Grant, which gave students a $500 grant for taking one online class during the summer semester, or $1,000 for two. The grant was enough to cover the online course fee for all classes.
"The current pandemic is a threat to the health and safety of faculty, students, and visitors of all college campuses," the petition says. "It is now the time to demand that we as students are able to be supported in our choice to pursue our education online, without additional costs, because we deserve the protection of our health and safety."
A protest has also been planned for Sunday, July 19 at 4:00 p.m. The participants will start in the parking lot of Pease Auditorium and organizers are asking that everyone wear masks and practice social distancing.
The petition and protest have been organized by EMU students Quinn Hutchinson and Torie DeSantes. Hutchinson says after speaking to several friends of theirs, they realized the impact the fees could have on the financial situations of students.
After EMU's announcement, Hutchinson said the protest would still move forward, as the students' demands had not fully been met.
Hutchinson said they are demanding that all online course fees be waived, even for classes that were originally offered as online classes. "The demand is that the 'update' to those fees is to waive them entirely," Hutchinson said.
A full-time 12 credit hour schedule for all online classes would cost students an additional $960 per semester with the current rates, and a typical 15 credit hour schedule would cost an additional $1,200.
In the email to students, EMU noted the initiatives already in place to provide students with financial relief, including a $400 gift to all incoming freshmen from the alumni group GameAbove, $51.3 million in financial aid in the university’s budget, and the distribution of nearly $6.9 million in funds from the CARES Act.