Dilemma behind opting for Ivy League schools in COVID-19 times

New DelhiWritten By: Praphul SinghUpdated: Jul 08, 2020, 08:02 AM IST
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Harvard is not reducing its tuition costs for the fall semester, even though all classes will be taught remotely.

How has COVID-19 changed the rules for Ivy League schools?

Studying in an Ivy League school has always been a long-standing dream for students worldwide. Despite the high fees and tough competition, Ivy League schools remain a hotspot for higher education, especially for Indian students. 

However, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing universities to formulate plans to keep students and teachers at a safe distance from COVID-19. It also is important to make the educational process effective with the use of technology and other available options.

Most of the universities have been contemplating with the idea to deal with the ongoing pandemic, to continue with the teaching-learning process and research activities with minimum impact. 

While most of the universities globally are adopting the "online education" mode, i.e. conducting classes over the Internet avoiding face-to-face interaction. Some of the other universities are also dwelling upon the idea of reducing the number of students attending the classes.

Harvard recently announced plans to bring students back for the fall semester. But, only 40 per cent of students went to campus. The other students will have to take their classes online.

Harvard is not alone in weighing up the idea of online classes. Another Ivy League university, Princeton University on Monday announced it will welcome undergraduate students back to the campus in the fall with a reduced capacity. First-year students and juniors will be allowed into the campus for the fall semester, while sophomores and seniors will be welcomed back in the spring semester.

Last week, Yale University announced a similar plan for limiting the number of pupils on campus. Yale announced that it will reopen in the fall without second-year students living on campus. Also, for the spring session, the campus will open without freshmen living on the campus.

If classes go online, what happens to the tuition fee?

Harvard is not reducing its tuition costs for the fall semester, even though all classes will be taught remotely. While room charges ($11,364) and boarding ($7,025) will be waived for students learning from home, the tuition ($49,653) and fees ($4,314) will remain the same, whether students are studying on-campus or off the premises.

According to the 2020-2021 cost of attendance at Harvard, the total billed and unbilled costs of on-campus budget ranged from $75,856- $80,006 per annum. 

The fall semester will cost $24,827, the same as it would be for on-campus learning. The university also made it clear that students will also be charged $2,157 in fees for the semester bringing it to a total of $26.984.


Even, Princeton is offering a 10 per cent discount on its tuition fees for the school year. 

For now, the estimated cost of attendance for 2020-21 at Princeton University is $75,210 and includes:
Tuition: $53,890
Room charge: $10,480
Board rate: $7,340
Estimated miscellaneous expenses: $3,500


What is the cost of attendance comparison between colleges in IVY League? 

With Harvard and Princeton announcing their plans, many other IVY League universities are still working on a plan to continue with their academics amid Covid-19 pandemic. 

Let's have a look at the Cost of Attendance for different IVY League Colleges (on-campus) for the academic year 2019-2020

(Source: Statista)

Harvard University (est. 1636): Cambridge, Massachusetts-- $64,412
Columbia University (est. 1754): New York, New York-- $81,455
Yale University (est. 1701): New Haven, Connecticut-- $72,100
The University of Pennsylvania (est. 1740): Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-- $67,346
Princeton University (est. 1746): Princeton, New Jersey-- $69020 
Dartmouth College (est. 1769): Hanover, New Hampshire-- $71,979
Cornell University (est. 1865): Ithaca, New York-- $71,796
Brown University (est. 1764): Providence, Rhode Island-- $72,444

(Note: The cost includes Tuition, Room & Board from the academic year 2019-2020)


To make it worse, the Trump administration has announced that foreign students must leave the US if their college goes online-only this fall

Foreign students in the United States, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, will have to leave the country if their classes are all taught online this fall or if they transfer to another school with in-person instruction, according to the regulations released by US Immigration and customs enforcement.

It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many US universities as they often pay full tuition, according to news agency Reuters.

China ranked first among countries of origin for international students in the United States with nearly 370,000 during the 2018-2019 academic year, according to data published by the Institute of International Education.

Indian students will be the second-worst affected by the move. More than 200,000 students are currently pursuing various courses in the US and form the second-highest number of foreign students, according to the Institute of International Education.

The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement.

The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency's data.

Why is it not easy for foreign universities to lose students from other countries, especially India?

The answer is simple - money. 

According to the report titled "Will Universities need a bailout to survive the COVID-19 Crisis?", based on the data from the UK, British universities could lose anywhere between £1.4 billion and £4.3 billion in income from enrolment of International students because of the pandemic. 

The report suggests this may result in 13 of such universities to go bust if there is no bailout. The report is published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The report further suggests that usual quota of International Students aren't expected to enrol for courses in UK Universities this September.

According to a report by news agency PTI quoting the official UK government statistics, Indian student numbers have been on an upward swing in recent years and from 2015 to 2019, annual UK study visa issuance rose by 229 per cent in India. A British Council survey of Indian students had found that of those who have already applied to study abroad from later this year, 43 per cent said they are not at all likely to change their plans.

However, there is growing anecdotal evidence that many Indian students might choose to defer their plans as universities put blended teaching plans in place a mix of virtual sessions due to COVID-19 lockdown travel restrictions and face-to-face sessions once these are substantially lifted.

"We recently surveyed prospective Indian students holding offers from British Universities for the September 2020 intake. The message is very clear Indian students wish to continue to come to the UK but certain requirements must be met," said Sanam Arora, chairperson of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK).

"Students want the British classroom experience and access to university infrastructure such as research labs. Eighty per cent of respondents said they would not accept their offer if learning for the entire next year moved online. However, this number reduces to around 55 per cent if there is an initial period of online learning followed by on-campus teaching, and crucially, if the fees are accordingly discounted," she added.

Are students willing to pay for pricey Ivy League stickers for "online classes"?

This is the most relevant and frequently asked questions these days. The students and families who were earlier ready to pay for the exorbitant ivy schools are now in a dilemma.

The question is, whether the student is ready to pay an inordinate amount for an Ivy League school sticker price for attending the college from their living room. This comes amid experts view which suggests that the value of an Ivy League education is in the networking and who you meet while you're in school. With online classes and remote learning in place, this major benefit is off the table.

In an interview with Forbes, Pierre Huguet, CEO of H&C Education, said that online education is often far from the experience students hoped for and paid for, and this is true no matter how hard schools try to alter their programs. With that in mind, he expects some schools to adjust their pricing for the coming school year.