By Emily A. Dougherty and Beverly R. Muzii
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many students approach learning. Though classes at the University of Central Florida have resumed in-person learning, students who are timid to return to the classroom have encountered an unforeseen concern, which has little to do with the virus itself.
Since 2009, UCF has been charging online
students an $18 per credit distance learning fee.
According to Heather Smith, a UCF spokesperson,
the distance learning fee funds “UCF’s Center for
Distributed Learning, which works with faculty
to design, develop, and drive engaging interactive online instruction.”
But this fee, which is incorporated in the tuition of the online-degree program (a notably less costly option), comes as an additional cost for on-campus students who have decided not to return to the classroom in light of concerns about the pandemic.
Katrina Moynihan and Aviana Fedele are sophomores at UCF who have raised concerns about the ethics of charging traditionally on-campus students the distance learning fee.
Moynihan, an advertising major, decided to live on-campus, along with her roommate Fedele, a health science clinical major.
Both were once full-time, on-campus students, who have since adjusted to learning online.
Though they continued living on campus this semester, neither student was fully comfortable going back to the classroom, opting instead to continue taking the majority of their classes online.
They explained that the distance learning fee would not be as much of a concern to them if it were not that they were already paying fees for some amenities that are not currently available because of the pandemic.
“There are some students who don’t have the option to return to campus, due to various reasons caused by COVID-19, and are still charged this extra learning fee,” Moynihan said.
In the eyes of some students, the fees for online learning may not seem fair, and they believe that it is in the student’s best interest for the fee to be waived.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to be charging this extra fee, especially when it could be out of the student’s control due to either their own health condition or somebody they live with,” Fedele said. “It really shows how it’s a business and they don’t care about the pandemic.”
But UCF is a state-funded public university, which means it has little jurisdiction over which fees it can and cannot charge students.
In light of the pandemic, the state waived UCF’s “health fee,” which is an in-tuition cost that “helps to offset [student] medical costs which means
can see a health care provider with no out-of-pocket charge for the general (primary care) office visit.”
But the state did not mandate any alterations to the distance learning fee.
So, while UCF has implemented the COVID-19 protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as mask requirements and social distancing guidelines, students like Moynihan and Fedele are reluctant to return
to the classroom, leaving them few other options but to enroll in the online classes that charge the distance learning fee.