On March 16, the 2020 spring semester at WMU moved to ‘distance learning’ due to COVID-19. The semester ended on April 25, leaving students to wonder if the digital semester was worth their money.
Senior and Criminal Justice Major, Ashley Thompson, felt that she did not get her money’s worth from WMU during the spring semester.
“A part of why I chose to attend this school is to get full access to its resources,” Thompson said. “Such as the rec center, library, dining halls, parking pass, etc.”
Thompson said she believed WMU’s decision to credit students for unused facilities instead of refunding, was not enough.
“I would expect that the university would back people in this time of need,” Thompson said. “And the fact that I got a $30 credit for a $300 parking pass, that’s valid on campus until August, is terribly disappointing.”
WMU sent an email to students on March 26 detailing possible refunds. Students with annual parking permits could receive a $30 credit on their account, while those with semester permits received $60.
For some students online classes can have their drawbacks. Junior Alex Lawrence said he was one of many students who saw a big difference between online and in person classes.
“Pre-recorded lectures were tough because you couldn’t ask the professors directly about the lectures. Also, some of the assignments were harder to do because it was online,” Lawrence said. “I personally think I didn’t get my money’s worth. I honestly struggled with online courses.”
If classes are online in the fall, Lawrence doesn’t know what it will mean for him, he said. He said he is considering taking a gap year if classes are online for fall.
Senior and Public Health Major, Alessondra Valle, thought the quality of some of her classes changed when classes went virtual.
“I definitely feel like I didn’t learn as much as I was when classes were in person, and it sucks because they were classes for my major and minor so they were important,” Valle said. “I also think my workload doubled and it was hard to keep up with it because there was so much more due every week for my classes.”
Valle said given the quality of the online format, she doesn't believe she got what she paid for.
Junior and Art Education Major, Madison McAllister, said her biggest struggle was not being able to use the facilities needed for her classes. McAllister said the campus closure made it so she was unable to fully engage in her classes.
“One of my two studio classes was my art education practicum, where we lead Saturday morning art classes for kids aged 7 to 14 around the area,” McAllister said. “All was fine with that class, until the cancelation of Western made it that we were unable to do all of our Saturday classes. It’s no ones fault, but very unfortunate, as it is my major. I was not able to gain my full education and practice in the art education field.”
McAllister’s other studio class was printmaking which required using large presses. This meant the printmaking room was mandatory for the process. McAllister said she feels it was unfortunate she was unable to do half of the projects that were planned.
“It is unfortunate, and with COVID, I feel selfish for complaining about my problems, as the virus is claiming many lives,” McAllister said. “However, I was unable to do half of my classes due to the cancelation and still had to pay full price tuition. This semester was not worth the price, as I did not learn as much as I should have.”
Freshman and Music Education Major, Claudia Locke, said she did not get her money’s worth from the semester. Locke said she had to move out of the dorms and does not believe the $1000 she was refunded fully covers what she lost.
On March 26, the university announced possible refunds for residents who vacated the university due to COVID-19. These students were eligible for $1000 if they had a meal plan and $500 without one.
Locke was also in an ensemble class, which was Symphonic Band, where her professor simply gave every student “credit” for the class.
“While yes, it is nice that I received credit, but I didn’t receive the instruction I signed up for,” Locke said.
Locke also had to move her private lessons online, and with her being a percussion major, it hindered with her instruction immensely, she said.
“I was studying and practicing my marimba jury, but was forced to stop because I did not own a marimba. So, I had to move my lessons to my snare drum and drum set,” Locke said. “This is fine because I still got my instruction, but I now have to push my freshman jury to the end of my first semester sophomore year. I may not be able to continue practicing this solo through the summer.”