HYDE PARK — Spring tuition at the University of Chicago is due Wednesday, but about 500 students say they won’t pay.
Members of the UChicago for Fair Tuition group are moving forward with a planned tuition strike, saying the university has failed to respond to students’ requests to negotiate their demands.
The group, largely comprising undergraduate students, has threatened for weeks to withhold Spring quarter tuition if officials don’t negotiate to:
- Reduce tuition by half and waiving fees through the pandemic.
- Waive advanced residency tuition for doctoral students.
- Release a breakdown of university spending.
- Reinstate part-time status for all students, which the university eliminated in 2015.
- Institute a tuition freeze, which the university committed to for the next school year.
“The past few days we’ve started sending them daily updates, but we still haven’t heard back,” organizer Anna Attie said. “We will be continuing with our strike [Wednesday] and will continue to withhold tuition until we reach an agreement with the university.”
Posted tuition for undergraduates this year is $57,642, though the actual costs to families varies widely based on financial aid. Classes at the university are still in session online.
In a statement, university officials said they won’t reduce tuition without first considering students’ financial situations. The university’s emergency assistance program has provided assistance to most students who have applied, spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan said.
Tuition is “an essential source of funding” for the university’s financial aid benefits, as well as faculty and staff salaries, he said.
“Reducing tuition for students regardless of their financial means would require substantial cutbacks in operations,” McSwiggan said.
The university’s statement did not address the three other unmet demands.
UChicago for Fair Tuition organizers have been in contact with lawyers about a class-action lawsuit if they’re unable to meet with university officials, according to Attie.
Students at numerous universities, including the University of Miami, Drexel University and the entire Arizona public university system, have recently sued for refunds on tuition and other fees after coronavirus disrupted the school year.
“We’re hoping not to have to take that route and instead negotiate with the university directly,” Attie said.
Beyond the threat of a lawsuit, organizers say they will continue call and email campaigns through the strike while stepping up their social media outreach.
A socially distanced rally outside of university President Robert Zimmer’s house last week drew about 25 supporters, and organizers will “regroup and continue to talk escalation,” Attie said.
The continued fight for the group’s demands is necessary as the University of Chicago — with one of the highest tuition rates in the nation — “sets the curve for what colleges everywhere can charge,” she said.
“This is going to be a fight in the long run, even if we don’t win a tuition reduction,” Attie said.
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