Harvard hit with backlash for charging full tuition despite online instruction

Up to 40% of undergraduate students will be welcomed to campus for fall semester

Harvard University is facing backlash on Twitter for keeping its annual tuition prices of $49,653 per year despite the Ivy League institution's decision to continue with online coursework for the 2020-2021 academic year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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One user called the decision "highway robbery" while another accused the college of suckering customers into paying for "the world's most expensive MOOC," or massive open online course.

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Others pointed out that there are cheaper learning options than paying for Harvard's tuition.

"You can audit most of the courses you need for any Harvard undergrad for free online and not get yourself $50k in debt PER YEAR," one user wrote, while another said, "Maybe kids should just listen to podcasts, watch YouTube, and read books instead."

Another user said, "for $49K you put a down payment on a $360,000 home with money left over. For the $200K of that 4 year degree you can buy a $1M rental property that becomes your cash engine for life. For a fraction of any of this you can start a business than within 4 years earns $100K/year."

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According to the university's announcement, up to 40 percent of undergraduate students will be welcomed to campus for the fall semester, including first-year students and those who need to be on campus to learn.

Citing the recent surge in coronavirus cases, Harvard said that all students, including those on campus, will continue with online instruction to mitigate the virus' spread.

“Harvard was built for connection, not isolation. Without a vaccine or effective clinical treatments for the virus, we know that no choice that reopens the campus is without risk,” Harvard Presiden Larry Bacow and deans Claudine Gay and Rakesh Khurana wrote in the joint statement. “That said, we have worked closely with leading epidemiologists and medical experts to define an approach that we believe will protect the health and safety of our community, while also protecting our academic enterprise and providing students with the conditions they need to be successful academically.”

In this Aug. 13, 2019, file photo, students walk near the Widener Library in Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

While freshmen will live on campus, sophomores, juniors and seniors will remain off campus for the fall semester.

"Choosing which students would be invited to campus was not easy, and we have enormous sympathy for sophomores and juniors as they consider the prospect of not starting their fall term in Cambridge," the statement added. "We could not help but recognize the unique position that first-year students find themselves in, making the transition to college in these strange times. They have not yet begun to build their Harvard network of faculty, advisors, and friends or learn about life in the Yard. Even with the many adaptations that will be in place this fall, we see enormous value in having them on campus in our residential system."

If the same capacity limits are in place for the spring term, seniors would be invited to finish their final term on campus.

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Harvard's fall semester, which begins Sept. 2, will cost $24,827 for tuition and $2,157 in fees for a total of $26,984, according to the university's website.

Harvard said enrolled students receiving financial aid who are not living on campus will receive an allowance of $5,000 per semester to go toward supporting their remote studying. Those who are invited to live on campus will be charged the standard room and board charges of $5,682 and $3,513 per semester, pending a student's approved financial aid.

The total cost for the fall semester, including tuition, fees, room and board is $36,178, while the full academic year is $72,356.

The Harvard Widener Library on Harvard Campus in Cambridge, one of the most famous university's libraries.

Access to nonresidential Harvard buildings will be restricted, with the exception of University Health Services, while Harvard Athletics will remain closed indefinitely. Harvard Library will also remain closed and off-campus visitors, including students not living on campus, will not be allowed in Harvard buildings.

Along with capacity limits, students will be screened for coronavirus upon arrival and will be tested once every three days going forward. Any students who test positive will be placed in isolation.

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