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Physical and financial health during COVID-19

I don’t deny the magnitude and care shown in the efforts on behalf of WSU in providing a safe and interactive environment for the student body, staff and faculty for fall semester 2020. However, this would be the year for considering not raising tuition, and perhaps the consideration of lowering the tuition costs.

Tuition and fees add financial strain to many students' budgets. (Pixabay).
Tuition and fees add financial strain to many students' budgets. (Pixabay).

The recently announced lowering of student fees by $75 this semester is a small step in a healthy direction. However, imagine the impact WSU could make by lowering tuition costs, sending a supportive message to the community and possibly sparking new interests in the educational goals of would-be students in the community.

By comparison, WSU isn’t as expensive as other schools—especially for the level of education that the school provides its students—yet school is expensive, nonetheless, and comparisons are often wasteful and limiting. There is a reason that the starving college student is an old cliché.

Implementing measures for public safety is a hard-to-grasp responsibility. It takes all resources to adapt to today’s pandemic lifestyle, planning, time, communication and money, plus a joint effort of community action.

It seems to me that “these uncertain times,” are character-building times. I also don’t deny the validity of the global scale of grief that’s been inflicted upon our species by this virus. But, I do see the fear which struck our community in a different, more negative light. Some in our community are paralyzed by uncertainty—all the while the sun’s up and the world’s still spinning.

Within the last week, I spoke to one 19-year-old, would-be student who is simply not going to school until, “all this COVID shit is over;” I also spoke to another nontraditional 34-year-old, would-be-returning student who said, in so many words, the same thing.

It ignited my mind, and I thought about how many potential students have let uncertainty stop them in their tracks. They are actively choosing inactivity and putting-off their educational goals rather than pursuing them expressly, either out of fear or necessity.

I believe the more educated any given community is, the more promising a future there is for that community, and other communities as well. Who wouldn’t want a more well-educated community in Ogden?

WSU—as a higher education entity—is also a pillar of the community. WSU is a central leader of thought and influence that extends far beyond the school itself.

If WSU is ready to take in roughly 8,000 students this fall, it should be done safely or not reopened at all.

What if, to help incentivize would-be, potential students, the school decided to not raise tuition again this year? What if, in the midst of all the bustling preparation to reopen its doors this fall, WSU mustered the strength to restructure the rates of tuition? Or, at least, begin more serious consideration regarding students’ financial health?

What if WSU went as far as to lower their tuition by a certain percentage, invested additional resources into marketing a positive message that incentivized the community—especially during “these uncertain times” – while so many are so hesitant and, frankly, scared: everyone has their own opinions, however, there are families that will not hug each other. That’s almost unfathomable in a pre-pandemic life.

With the role that WSU holds in our community, I can imagine WSU being a much more positive force, pushing themselves even harder than initially imaginable, just as they encourage us students to do each semester. When the community is at a weak point, using WSU’s power and influence as an opinion leader and the community’s center for higher education to get the community jumpstarted, will help breathe new inspiration into the community and get more people moving in a positive direction.

Why not set the standard and educate by example? It’s already happening by providing a safe open for fall semester 2020. Now is a great time to help build our community’s character, define what it means to be a part of the Wildcat Family—even if that’s achieved by giving up a little more now, pushing project timelines back re-structuring long-term goals in the face of a global emergency—and grant support, incentives and promote positive action to a disheartened community.

Perhaps staffing would be a problem for the school. Maybe there would not be enough room, yet I really can’t imagine those types of short-term issues not being resolved with an influx of students, and more staff means more jobs provided. A more educated community today, and, yes, even during pandemics, leads to a healthier and more capable community tomorrow. Otherwise, what’s the point of earning a degree?

So, in the long-run, let’s say maybe the carbon neutral goal is put off by a few years. In the meantime, there’s an influx of students that will, eventually pay back both in a capitalistic sense as well as a communal sense. More students, taking in less money initially, will turn into more money in the future.

The more educated the community is the brighter chance it will have at a progressive future. It seems like a win-win, especially for an institution like WSU. Set the standard, raise the bar, show additional compassion for students’ financial health and incentivize would-be students.

Further consideration of not raising tuition and perhaps even lowering it cannot hurt that bad. I urge you to pursue that financial health aspect, especially in the face of all the other safety measures that have been implemented.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the WSU family for all the hard work. I am also appreciative of the care and efforts made for this as-safe-as-possible return for students during this stressful fall semester of 2020.

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