Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Like many students, my summer is looking much emptier than I planned. With no internship or job lined up, I resigned myself to my only other option: summer classes (how fun). I couldn’t receive transfer credit for the course I needed, so I had to drop a lovely $1,222 on an upper-level Spanish course as an in-state student. Just typing that number made me nauseous.
Summer classes at the University of Maryland are a scam. Both in-state and out-of-state students are forced to pay exorbitant amounts of money for credit they desperately need and often can’t get anywhere else. The sky-high price of summer classes needs to change, and it needs to change now.
The first place students look for summer classes is often their local community college. It’s easier to find transfer credit, and community college courses are often a fraction of the price of the same course at this university. For underclassmen who need to get their General Education credits out of the way, forgoing a summer statistics course at this university for one at their local community college is obviously a smart financial decision.
Yet many classes, such as the Spanish one I registered for, are only available at this university. Upperclassmen who need credits for their major that are unavailable elsewhere have nowhere to turn. This university’s administration knows it has a monopoly on offering degree-specific courses, enabling it to charge whatever price it wants.
The price tag of summer classes forces students to choose between shelling out thousands of dollars on top of normal tuition and losing an opportunity to complete credits toward their degree. Students should never have to break the bank to further their education over the summer.
During normal circumstances, it’s frustrating how expensive summer classes are. But now? It’s tone-deaf and elitist to charge thousands of dollars when so many students and their families have lost streams of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s exclusionary to students who have lost summer jobs, internships or research opportunities and need a way to make their summer count.
At a university – where students should always be the top priority – charging a fortune for summer classes during this crisis demonstrates the exact opposite. With the first session of summer courses being administered solely online, students are paying heaps of money for a virtual course that doesn’t replace the in-person experience they might have hoped for. Even three-credit courses that were always meant to be online, like my Spanish class, don’t dip below the $1,000 price point.
I understand professors need to get paid, and that this university needs to turn a profit. Yet there’s no reason to charge thousands of dollars for summer classes. These expensive classes are only available to the few who can afford them, cutting out everyone who can’t. If this university lowered the price for these courses, it would widen the pool of students with the financial resources to take them, which would be a win-win for both the school and its students.
It’s time for this university to acknowledge there’s no real reason for its summer courses to cost so much. Instead of being gatekeepers to opportunity in a time when so much is uncertain, this university needs to reconsider the outrageous price of its summer courses.
Maya Rosenberg is a sophomore journalism and public policy major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.