The Big Ten course-sharing program provides financial relief and academic engagement

Students walk across McKeldin Mall. (Gabby Baniqued/The Diamondback)

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

The University of Maryland has faced an onslaught of harsh — but justified — criticism about its response to the current public health crisis. Fearing the health and safety of the campus community is at major risk, students and staff alike have expressed concerns over what they see as a premature reopening of the campus amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

One of the main concerns among students is the notion that the university has prioritized its cash flow over the health and safety of students. Although undergraduate learning is almost entirely online, the university continues to charge students full tuition for a less-than-full college experience. And, with the possibility that the campus might shut down after the university has already collected the semester’s tuition, distrust of the university’s leadership is widespread.

However, a new initiative this university is participating in — the Big Ten Academic Alliance’s online course-sharing program — is a step in the right direction toward alleviating students’ concerns about tuition and fees.

The course-sharing program gives students in the Big Ten consortium the ability to enroll in one class per semester of the upcoming academic year at a different Big Ten university, free of charge. The participating universities each offer about 15 courses covering a wide range of topics, some of which may count toward this university’s major requirements. These classes appear on transcripts as transfer credits, but they can be taken synchronously with courses at this university.

For some perspective, a single credit hour for an out-of-state student, including mandatory fees, is $1,911.00. Through the course-sharing program, all the associated fees and additional tuition for a three-credit class are completely waived, making for a whopping price tag of zero dollars.

This program allows students, many of whom have faced financial hardships as a result of the pandemic, to expand their education, whether or not they’re on campus. Any student currently enrolled as an undergraduate at a Big Ten university is eligible to partake in the program and can do so remotely. And unlike many other scholarships and opportunities, there is no restriction based on financial or academic standing. The application takes only minutes to complete.

This program addresses some student concerns: It relieves students of a class’s worth of debt, offers engaging course options and promotes intercollegiate relations in a community that is generally starved of social interaction. Not only that, but the added excitement of taking a course at another institution may reignite a passion for education among students who have lost that spark during the months of quarantine.

If nothing else, the BTAA proves that student voices are being heard. The demand for empathy, compassion and financial relief from multi-billion dollar institutions is more fervent than ever before. 

But universities still can be — and should be — doing more to help their students.

To any and all struggling students, I urge you to take advantage of this course-sharing program to not only save your money, but your sanity. And as we patiently await the end of this public health crisis, continue to demand more from your university leadership.

Gabriella Kurczeski is a junior English and psychology major. She can be reached at gkurczes@terpmail.umd.edu

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