A petition that has amassed over 1,500 signatures was created by an Eastern Michigan student about the new block tuition pricing model and the reinstatement of online course fees for the fall 2021 semester.
The petition was started by EMU senior and computer science major Faizan Akheel. Akheel is an international student from Saudi Arabia who said the new policy changes have significantly impacted him because he is not eligible for federal financial aid. He said his fall 2021 tuition bill is $9,060 for 15 credit hours and fees, such as international student health insurance.
“Maybe my petition will be able to convey my message, and it’s not like I’m lashing out on them or something,” Akheel said. “It's just a polite request because the pandemic has taken a toll on all the students, especially for students like me who are international trying to come from one place across the world to the U.S. to study and achieve their dreams.”
Akheel reached out to a variety of university offices before starting his petition. Akheel said he often received automated messages back, or was directed to scholarship applications he did not qualify for.
“Most of the people said they wouldn't be able to help me, but specifically the president and the Office of the President, they didn't reply back to me at all,” Akheel said. “Like, I emailed them three times.”
Block Tuition Pricing Model
On June 10, the Board of Regents announced that EMU would be implementing a block tuition pricing model. Under this new model, each individual credit hour is $580, and students taking 12 to 16 credit hours are charged a flat rate of $6,975.
In the university’s official announcement of the block tuition pricing model, EMU explained the new changes:
“Block tuition will enable students to graduate sooner, which will result in students starting their careers earlier, increasing their earning potential by an additional year to two (over five and six-year graduates). This additional income could amount to more than $45,000 annually for the first and second year of employment based on the average income for college graduates.”
EMU also stated, “students can expect to save up to $3,600 on tuition costs throughout their degree.” Sara Schafer, a computer science student who is graduating in fall 2021, does not believe that seniors like her will benefit from these changes.
“For those of us who are like ‘I just need a few more credits to graduate,’ it’s not really worth it,” Schafer said.
In the announcement, EMU stated that students taking 16 credit hours in fall 2021 would be saving $225, or 3.3%, compared to the fall 2020 semester. Meanwhile, students taking 15 credit hours would be paying $225 more compared to the previous year’s tuition.
According to this announcement, the rate per credit hour in fall 2020 was about $450. Using this estimated amount, a student taking 12 credit hours would have paid $5,400. In fall 2021, students taking 12 credit hours will be charged the flat rate of $6,975, which is a tuition increase of about $1,575, or 29%.
Syed Wasiuddin, a sophomore studying biology, is in favor of the block tuition changes because he was already planning on taking 15 or more credit hours per semester.
“However, I don't mind the block tuition,” Wasiuddin said in a message. “As someone who takes 15 to 16 credits a semester, the new system helps me out.”
Reinstatement of Online Course Fees
In addition to the block tuition pricing model, Akheel, Schafer, and Wasiuddin were surprised the university reinstated online class fees after canceling them for the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters.
The university charges $80 per credit hour for online courses and recently lowered the cost of hybrid, or partially in-person, classes to $60 per credit hour. According to EMU’s media relations specialist Morgan Mark, about 65-75% of courses for the fall 2021 semester have an “in-person component.”
EMU explained the reinstatement of online courses fees, saying the fall 2021 semester’s course offerings are “more similar to pre-pandemic fall semester course offerings in place for more than 15 years.”
Akheel, Schafer, and Wasiuddin said several of their majors’ required courses were only offered online. Akheel and Schafer, who are both seniors, needed to take these courses to graduate on time.
“My only complaint was how are they going to charge us if they are not giving us an option to study in-person at the university for a specific section,” Akheel said. “That's the reason why I kept reaching out to the university.”
The tuition changes have sparked online discussion by EMU students across social media. Timothy Bonk is one student who publicly expressed his opposition to these changes on EMU Engage and the university’s official Instagram account.
In an email, Bonk explained a comment he left on EMU’s Instagram account about the block tuition pricing model in June. He said that the university deleted his comment before ultimately disabling the comments section completely:
“My comment (paraphrased) was: "This actually hurts students. Many of us work part-time and are unable to commit to or are unable to handle 16 credit semesters. This is just a tuition hike for us." My comment reached 54 likes, the last time I checked before it was deleted. There were about 10 other comments, all criticizing the university for this decision and sharing their experiences with how their tuitions increased significantly.”
Bonk left another comment on a different Instagram post by the university shortly after, which he said was also deleted. Bonk left a new comment asking EMU’s Instagram account why his previous comments were removed. They responded, asking Bonk to privately message them. Bonk never messaged the account because he did not want to receive a “copy-pasted answer.”
“I feel very disrespected by the administration at this school,” Bonk said in an email. “The [EMU] administration has no accountability to the students and purposely silences us online.”
Mark said in an email that the disabled comments section was “an error and we regret it.” Mark added, “The comments to the post should not have been hidden or the ability to post comments disabled. The comments are now visible and the post is open to new comments.”
Mark encouraged students who are facing financial difficulty to apply to the FAFSA or the Student Emergency Fund. “The University fully appreciates the financial challenges and the difficulties they represent,” Mark said in an email.