UAFS answers student questions about ‘distance learning’ fee

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FORT SMITH, Ark (KNWA/KFTA) —

As you and your students start heading back to college, you may notice a distance education fee on your tuition this fall. 

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith students have noticed a “distance learning fee” this upcoming semester, and some students are asking why.

UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley said the fee has long been in place for classes that have an online class or a class that is face-to-face but also has online elements.

Students will see a $50 charge for each credit hour that falls under this category.

She said only the Board of Trustees can decide to reduce or waive a fee. The money helps pay for software, security and salaries.

“We do plan to determine the structure for charges and how it’s being applied,” Dr. Riley said.

In a letter to UAFS students, Dr. RIley stated the fee will be waived if a professor moved their in-person class online, or added online elements.

“The Trustees agreed that if courses were originally listed as face-to-face courses, not hybrid or online, that we could waive the distance education fees since students who registered did not expect to pay the fee,” the letter stated. “They have not waived the fee for classes that were originally intended to use online learning tools because they were hybrid or online.”

Dr. Riley said students can connect with the UAFS Student Government Association to find resolutions if needed.

READ the complete letter to UAFS students below:

New and returning Lions, 

Welcome back to fall 2020!

Entering a new–hopefully temporary–normal has been challenging for all of us. Your faculty have worked diligently to prepare online courses that will be fulfilling, engaging, and meaningful because you deserve the same high-quality education we promised you when you enrolled at UAFS no matter how you choose to learn.  Faculty continuing to teach face-to-face classes have worked to ensure that students who may be unable to attend due to illness or quarantine may also have online experiences that are as robust as what occurs in classrooms.

On social media, I have read numerous messages in which students have expressed concerns about our distance education fees, and the combination of those fees with facilities and activities fees that support on-campus learning. As a first generation college student, I worked three jobs to pay for college, so I know that any unanticipated fees or unexplained fees can be very frustrating.  It is my duty to explain our fee structure to you and to assure you that I hear you and I am committed to reviewing our charges and 

The Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas System approves all charges on student bills, and those charges were submitted prior to the point where we knew how many classes would transition to online learning for this fall.  Unfortunately, I do not have the authority to waive, reduce, or increase any of charges once they are approved.  The Trustees have been very supportive of our Lion Promise to hold your tuition flat for two or four years for students earning associates’ and bachelors’ degrees respectively.  They also held our tuition and mandatory fees flat for this fall because they understood that families could not afford to pay additional tuition and fees at a time when so many individuals are experiencing reduced hours or layoffs from employment.

Our distance education fee of $50/semester credit hour is applied to courses that are either fully online or offered as hybrid courses (partially face-to-face with access to Blackboard and other online tools to supplement the classes).  The Trustees agreed that if courses were originally listed as face-to-face courses, not hybrid or online, that we could waive the distance education fees since students who registered did not expect to pay the fee.  They have not waived the fee for classes that were originally intended to use online learning tools because they were hybrid or online.

Also, they have not allowed us to waive any fees for other services on campus such as technology, RAWC, athletics, etc.  The institution will still be providing the technology needed to support the entire university, the RAWC and Library will be open for business, and we have only postponed some fall athletics competitions to the spring.  We have all of the expenses of offering these activities, programs, and resources to all students despite the fact that so many of you will be taking classes online.  If you live close to Fort Smith–and most students do– I hope you will come to campus to use our computer labs, laboratories, library, campus recreation center, Campus Center, etc. when needed or when you are able to do so.

My commitment to you today is that I will work with the Student Government Association, Faculty Senate and Staff Council to look closely at all fees incurred by students. We will begin drafting a proposal to restructure fees more equitably and transparently, and when the research is complete, I will bring that proposal to the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees who have final approval on changes to tuition and fees.  In the meantime, I will notify you immediately if the Board of Trustees votes to change, reduce, or waive any tuition and fees or other charges.

As you know, this spring, UAFS formed numerous budget committees to help assess revenue generation and cost-saving ideas. It is our hope that these recommendations will help us to enable even more students to afford a top-tier education at UA Fort Smith.

As always, I want to hear your voices, Lions. I know these are unusual, stressful, and frustrating times, and through the chaos of this year, you have chosen to pursue your college degree. I am here for you, and I am proud of you. 

Stay well, and go Lions. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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