Over 1,100 undergraduate and graduate students at Columbia University have pledged to withhold their tuition for the spring semester to demand a discount for what they see as a lost spring term.
While some universities have brought students back to campus, Columbia has mostly offered online instruction for students and allowed only a sliver of them to live on campus or attend in-person classes.
In response, students are asking the university to reduce their total costs — including tuition, fees, and room and board — by at least 10 percent, following suit of several schools including Georgetown University, Princeton University and Williams College. Columbia College, the university’s undergraduate school, can cost more than $80,000 a year for students not receiving financial aid.
Strike organizers said that both graduate and undergraduate students were participating; the university has more than 31,000 students.
“It’s a reasonable demand,” said Matthew Gamero, 19, a sophomore who is one of the strike organizers. “This is about the university providing an education of its worth, and to have it online is certainly not what we’re paying for.”
“This is a moment when an active reappraisal of the status quo is understandable, and we expect nothing less from our students,” the university said in a statement. “Their voices are heard by Columbia’s leadership, and their views on strengthening the University are welcomed.”
A tuition discount is only one of a series of demands made by strikers. They have also called on the university to reduce funding for campus policing, improve working conditions for graduate students and provide aid for the surrounding West Harlem community.
The tuition strike was officially kicked off after the spring term bill was due last Friday. For undergraduates, the university could impose a $150 late fee and prevent them from registering for summer or fall classes. The university could also penalize seniors by withholding their diplomas until their balance is paid.
Join our social media accounts to watch exclusive videos and photos