"This is the kind of thing where there's strength in numbers and what we're doing to make a political point." U Of C Students Continue Tuition Strike ‘To Make It Easier For Folks Who Can’t Afford To Pay Right Now’ – CBS Chicago
By Steven Graves

CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of University of Chicago students are standing their ground, refusing to pay for spring semester.

Wednesday is when tuition is due.

It comes after weeks trying to get the administration to meet demands like cutting tuition in half during the pandemic.

CBS 2’s Steven Graves reports on why the school is not budging.

Administration said it’s a trickle effect. If students don’t pay, others will suffer. But students said if they don’t get a negotiation, the tuition strike stands.

University of Chicago sophomore Livia Miller said she’s holding her tuition for other students who don’t have the option.

“To make it easier for folks who genuinely can’t afford to pay right now. And we’re all in this together,” Miller said.

The drastic measure comes after she spearheaded an effort called UChicago For Fair Tuition when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The virus let to learning learning from home, but most apparent, new financial strain on families.

“This is the kind of thing where there’s strength in numbers and what we’re doing to make a political point,” Miller added.

Last month, hundreds of students made demands like a reduction in tuition and elimination of fees until the end of the pandemic, no more advanced residency tuition for doctoral students, more financial transparency and reinstatement of part-time status for students.

A long term tuition freeze demand was met, but it wasn’t enough.

“This really isn’t a question about finding money. It’s a question of making priorities,” Miller said.

She claimed hundreds of students are withholding spring tuition. The yearly cost for an undergrad is about $57,000.

But U of C responded, saying a cut in tuition would impact financial aid and faculty and staff salaries.

“They have a lot of market power and if they won’t pay, you can’t make them pay,” said Hanna Stotland, a private admissions consultant.

They say it would also result in substantial cutbacks in offering education. It’s a balancing act between institution and students not only happening here, but nationwide.

Stotland said the struggle isn’t going away anytime soon.

“This is an alteration in the marketplace that every college and university has to adjust to. And think about how they’re going to keep those students well-served.”

U of C said it will help students and their families directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Otherwise, late fees and other penalties do apply if tuition is not paid.

Miller said if push does come to shove her group will consider taking legal action but that is the last resort.

The University of Chicago released a statement to CBS 2 on the matter:

The University recognizes the difficult and unforeseen challenges that COVID-19 has brought about for many of our students and their families. We also recognize that Spring Quarter will be different than anyone anticipated, but these changes are necessary to safeguard members of our community.  

As Provost Ka Yee C. Lee stated in an email to campus, ‘we will honor our commitments of financial support for students, and make increased financial aid available to students and families with increased demonstrated financial need.’ 

The University has expanded its longstanding financial support for undergraduate students with demonstrated need, and has extensive financial aid programs for students in our professional, PhD, and master’s programs. In addition, the University maintains anemergency assistance program and has provided assistance to the majority of students who have applied.

Tuition is an essential source of funding for the University’s ongoing operations, including support for financial aid as well as faculty and staff salaries. Reducing tuition for students regardless of their financial means would require substantial cutbacks in operations, which would hinder the University’s ability to provide all of its current educational offerings and to fulfill its core research and education mission.