In the middle of the spring semester, coronavirus forced universities to move their programs online. And while many schools waived tuition fees for amenities students couldn’t use, that hasn’t been the case for graduate business students at Southern Methodist University.
Several students reached out to NBC 5 Responds to see if our team could get answers from the administration after their questions were ignored.
Danny Ramirez and Jeff Larsen are two business students working toward an MBA at SMU’s Cox School of Business.
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“They do a really good job of bringing in really talented professors and very talented students as well, so it’s been terrific in that aspect,” said Larsen.
When the pandemic hit, they were both studying abroad in Dubai.
“We were there meeting with companies the first week in March and so we got an email from SMU saying this is what’s happening back in the states,” said Larsen. “That moved us entirely online."
Forcing classes online meant their learning experience would be the same as SMU’s online MBA program. Except they’re still paying for in-person tuition.
“Right now, as it’s stated, the online MBA people don’t pay fees and now current MBA’s are technically online MBAs but are still being charged the full amount of money, which is like thousands of dollars,” said Ramirez.
Students formed a petition urging the administration to consider waiving those fees for the summer.
“For me, it’s about $2,800 for fees for services that we can’t use,” said Larsen.
NBC 5 Responds asked SMU if they would refund those fees for summer MBA students.
In an email, the university responded to a list of questions from NBC 5 Responds. The full list can be seen at the bottom of this article.
"SMU offered credit adjustments for housing, dining and parking, but not for tuition or general fees for Professional MBAs or any student group," the unversity said, pointing out that the MBA program is 24 months long.
“I know they’re working day and night to help us but it didn’t seem like our voices were being heard,” said Ramirez.
In early March, Ramirez lost his job. To save money, he moved home to California and plans to graduate in August.
Larsen plans to graduate in December and hopes the university reconsiders.
“A lot of high expectations are put on us as students and a lot of really high expectations have been put on companies during this really trying time and I think it’s really important to ask those same questions to higher education,” said Larsen.
Question 1: Will SMU refund the general student fee for Professional MBA (PMBA) students?
Answer: SMU offered credit adjustments for housing, dining and parking, but not for tuition or general fees for Professional MBAs or any student group. https://blog.smu.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/2020/04/15/credit-adjustments-for-housing-dining-and-parking/
Question 2: Will SMU and Cox School revert to the Pass/Fail grading system for the summer semester?
Answer: All SMU schools reinstated the A-F grading system for the summer. Faculty and academic leadership at each school make decisions about grades/grading systems for their respective schools. After having given graduate students a choice of pass/fail or A-F for spring classes that unexpectedly moved online mid-semester due to COVID-19, all Cox programs are returning to their customary high grading standards in summer. The move back to A-F grading is indicative of how the Cox School faculty feels about the quality of our programs. It is not a menu of choices.
One of the benefits of the Professional MBA program, wherein students hold down full-time jobs while participating in the MBA program, is that students have six years from the time they matriculate into the program to complete the MBA degree. Students in all programs have the option to take a leave of absence or take a semester off. Professional MBA students who feel they are unable to focus on their course work due to work or family circumstances always have the flexibility, and often take it, to sit out a semester or reduce their course load.
Question 3: Why do students enrolled in the Professional MBA program, who are taking their classes online this summer, have to pay the general student fee since they aren’t taking classes on campus?
Answer: COVID-19 disrupted the traditional face-to-face delivery of the summer semester and part of the spring semester for Professional MBAs, but the Professional MBA program is 24 months long. The University uses the general student fee across the entire program, not just one semester. (See also answer to question below.)
Question 4: I’ve seen the General Fees, but they aren’t broken down for what exactly they fund. Are you able to provide that breakdown?
Answer: The fees are part of the student contribution to the cost of the University experience at SMU. A portion of the student fee is distributed to the Student Association for its programs. The remainder of the fee is used to help fund the Student Center Operations, Student Center Repairs and Maintenance, Intercollegiate Athletics, and various other functions that support the student experience.
Question 5: Why hasn’t SMU waived those fees for the traditional MBA students for the summer?
Answer: Along with information in Q.1, Q. 3 and Q .4 above, the University is making adjustments to deal with a large budget gap created by COVID-19. Details here: https://blog.smu.edu/coronavirus-covid-19/2020/04/23/smu-adapts-to-challenges-created-by-covid-19/