Courtesy of the University of Texas at San Antonio
The organizer of a Change.org petition
with more than 3,000 signatures calling on the University of Texas at San Antonio to lower fall tuition has sent the petition to the university's president and other administrators.
Destiny Anguiano, a returning sophomore at UTSA, created the petition two weeks ago after the university announced that it was laying off hundreds of employees prior to reopening for the upcoming semester.
"As a sophomore student at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I am appalled out how my school is handling the Fall 2020 plans," Anguiano wrote.
UTSA plans to open its campus for the fall semester, but to conduct the majority of its classes online as the COVID-19 case count continue to rise in San Antonio and around the state.
In an email to the student body on July 8, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, Provost Kimberly Andrews Espy
and Chief Financial Officer Veronica Salazar Mendez wrote that fall
tuition rates will remain unchanged, though "some mandatory fees may be adjusted pending final decisions regarding campus services."
Tuition and fees for the 2020-21 academic year costs $10,154
for in-state students, while out-of-state and international students will pay
Despite this, Eighmy announced on July 1 that UTSA was laying off 243 staff members and declining to renew the contracts of 69 non-tenure track faculty.
The university is defending its decision to charge full tuition for a semester that will largely be conducted online in an FAQ page on its website, stating "the cost of providing a high-quality educational experience remains generally consistent." It added that, in some cases, "online instruction can actually be more expensive to deliver, depending on the academic program."
Eighmy did not respond to a request for comment.
Anguiano expressed her frustration with the layoffs in the petition, which Eighmy wrote were due to a projected $35.8 million revenue shortfall
for the 2022-23 year.
"If UTSA is charging us full tuition, there should have been no excuse to be able to afford to keep them employed," the petition reads.
In addition to calling on the university to lower tuition and fees for students who will be taking the majority of their classes online, the petition voices other concerns with the university's reopening plan.
Anguiano expressed frustration with the size of the university police budget, which is larger than that of its student services division. She also called UTSA's hygiene plan — which does include sanitizing classrooms after each use — "highly concerning."
"Charging full tuition for an unsafe environment is despicable," she wrote.
The petition also addresses another point: the pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color. Latinx people are four times
as likely as whites to be hospitalized for COVID-19.
In Bexar County, which is 60 percent Latinx, those residents have accounted for more than 75%
of COVID-19 cases.
UTSA's student body is majority Latinx, and an in-person reopening might further exacerbate the risk of further spreading the virus to the San Antonio's Hispanic population, Anguiano said.
Érica Alcocer, a UTSA senior who helped Anguiano craft the petition, charged that the school's decision to start the semester in person is a ploy to bring students back and charge full tuition before the university ultimately transitions to online-only learning.
"UTSA knows that [online-only learning] is probably coming, but they're choosing to keep the tuition where it is, because that way they have charged us and it's much harder to get that money back,"
UTSA has already announced that it will conclude the fall semester online after the Thanksgiving break. It has not yet released information on how it plans to conduct the spring semester.
UTSA has not yet released its class schedule for the fall, but Alcocer, who has asthma, plans to take all classes online.
Anguiano plans to also plans to study only exclusively, but doesn't yet know where she will be this fall. She would prefer to remain at home in Houston but already signed a lease in San Antonio prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
"I don't feel safe returning to campus," she said. "I honestly have no idea what I'm going to do."
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