On Monday, July 6, the undergraduate student population received news from President Chris Eisgruber that we would not be allowed back on campus for at least half of the coming year and that instruction will likely be mostly virtual.
The announcement also included a statement saying that the University’s full-year tuition cost will be discounted by 10 percent:
“Because we anticipate that most undergraduates will have the opportunity to study on campus only for one semester or less, we will discount the University’s full-year undergraduate tuition by ten percent for this academic year. This discount will apply to all undergraduates, regardless of when or whether they are on campus. We will also apply other discounts to the undergraduate fee package, including the pro‑ration of room and board charges for shortened semesters and the elimination of some fees.”
This brought comfort to many students who were weighing whether another virtual semester would be worth the loans and burdens on their family members. However, when Financial Aid released further information regarding how the discounts would be applied, it quickly became apparent that only those who pay full price would benefit from this tuition discount.
The statement included:
“5. Will my parent contribution be reduced this year along with the reduced tuition?
Your parent contribution will be based on a review of your 2020–21 aid application and supporting documents. If your family’s financial situation has changed as a result of COVID-19, you can upload an explanation in your financial aid portal. This information will be considered when we are determining your parental contribution and may result in a reduction. The tuition reduction, however, will not impact these calculations.
8. Will my parental contribution change from the fall to the spring semester? When will I receive a spring semester aid award?
Your parental contribution for the spring semester will be the same as the fall semester. Your financial aid budget, however, will be adjusted based on whether you are on campus, off campus, or at home. We expect to release spring term aid packages in December 2020.”
This statement therefore implies that parental contributions for many students who receive partial financial aid will remain the same.
This is an issue of social equity, since people who can afford to pay full expenses will see a reduction in payment, but families who are only receiving partial financial aid will have to pay the same family contribution for a less-than-ideal experience. Many of these are middle-class families who are already struggling to pay the contribution the University is asking for. Princeton has always been generous with financial aid to those who need it most, but for those who are in the middle-class, “Affordable for All” often translates to “affordable for lower-class and upper-class students,” leaving the rest of the student body scrambling to pay what they’ve been told they can afford.
At an Ivy League institution, most external merit scholarships do not help with this financial burden. Many partial-aid students have watched as the external scholarships they’ve earned have been relabeled as “grant money” by the University and used as justification to reduce their aid. But at the end of the day, many partial aid families decide that taking on this financial burden is worth it for their children to get the Ivy League experience that Princeton offers. Unfortunately, the coronavirus crisis has made this experience impossible. It is unfair to continue to burden these families when they won’t be getting what they initially agreed to pay for.
By including a tuition discount in the first place, the University is acknowledging that the 2020–21 school year will provide an inherently less valuable educational experience to all undergraduates. It is unfair for partial-aid families to continue to have the same financial burden placed on them for this inherently less valuable semester.
The decision to apply the 10 percent full tuition discount to the University’s share of the tuition instead of reducing expected family contribution is unfair. This option leaves these students paying just as much as they were before and actually ends up saving the University money rather than the students the aid is intended to assist.
The following petition calls on the University to apply the 10 percent tuition discount to the parents’ expected contribution. This would ensure that the burden placed on middle-class families is reduced, similar to the reduction of financial burden on those paying full price. In short, this reduction of financial burden should be offered to every single student, whether you are not on aid, are on partial aid, or are on full aid.
Gaea Lawton and the undersigned.
If you agree with this, please sign here: http://chng.it/5zpNNRhVXJ
Amir Shapour Mohammadi
Glenna Jane Galarion
Debra Lynn Eden
Ibrahim Ali Hashmi
Yu Jeong Lee
Jae Byeok Yoon
Tae Goo Kang
Carlota Corbella Alcántara
Wei Xiao Zhang