The outbreak of COVID-19 has stretched thin the very fabric of society on a global scale. The economy is in flux and social distancing has become a common practice with people required to avoid physical contact with one another. In this state of confusion and panic, Yonsei University’s response has been somewhat inadequate.
With the 2020 Spring/Summer semester severely compromised by the spread of COVID-19, the student body has been requesting a partial refund for those enrolled in the current semester. Yonsei University has so far been unwilling to provide partial refunds for students citing increased costs in improving infrastructure to provide higher quality online classes.
Yonsei University is imposing unreasonable terms upon students fully aware of the strong position they hold. If education were a normal good or service consumers would simply not consume it and changes would occur. However, taking a semester off to protest would negatively affect students directly; plans for the future would have to be pushed back by a couple of months. This is the reason the school is able to look past students’ complaints, because they are at a position of advantage.
There are a number of reasons as to why the lack of a partial refund is unreasonable.
The first is regarding a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of tuition fees. The tuition fee paid at the beginning of semester is a prepayment for future services. The school is currently unable to provide services included in the terms of contract. E.g. In general: Use of school facilities. By department: provision of the Common Curriculum (UIC), extra costs from experiments (Engineering majors), one on one face to face lessons (Music majors).
The increased cost to provide said service should not matter to students. That should be something the school should have covered either with other sources of revenue or with insurance. If the terms of the school’s insurance contract do not cover losses from pandemics, it is not the student body’s responsibility to make up for the lost revenue. The reverse situation for students lacking in funds would not work either. Students do not receive a discount on their tuition fees when schools do well.
The increase in costs, regarding improved infrastructure and capabilities in conducting live streaming through YSCEC, have also been cited as another reason. However, all lectures are either conducted live through Zoom or pre-recorded and uploaded onto YouTube. Where does the increased cost stem from?
All the measures taken by the school so far since the initial COVID-19 outbreak have been half measures. Even when announcing online classes, Yonsei was one of the slowest. Students have been kept in the dark concerning the decisions and reasons leading up to the changes of the 2020 Spring/Summer Semester. There have also been anecdotal cases of administration office personnel responding to students complaining about quality of lectures nonchalantly, claiming they have already sent notices to professors and cannot do anything more. In certain cases, students were told to individually file complaints to professors if they are dissatisfied.
The school’s first responsibility should be towards the students. Let us hope the rights of the student body are upheld.
On April 3, the student council requested the school provide partial refunds for tuition fees due to the infringement of students’ rights and lacking response to the pandemic, along with a request for evidence of increased expenses. As of April 24, there has not yet been an official announcement from the student council regarding the results of the discussions that took place with the school personnel on April 8. Apart from conducting a survey April 11 of complaints concerning online lectures, there have been no further announcements in regards to tuition fees.