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Did We Get Screwed? / Should Students Get Reimbursed for the Spring 2020 Semester? (Opinion)

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

  • Was Written on June 07 2020 for MBA 507 Ethics at Management Class at Stony Brook University

“Are you a college student who was forced to leave campus? You may be entitled to compensation,” advertised Anastopoulo law firm from South Carolina on a new website created specifically for students who were asked to leave campus in Spring 2020 (, 2020).

In March 2020, a health emergency hit the world and forced universities to switch from in-person class settings to online classes and learning environments. Shortly thereafter, students were forced to leave campus. As many predicted, students began suing universities with class-action status, demanding a partial refund for the semester of Spring 2020. The claim has been that online classes are not nearly as effective, and therefore do not hold equal value to in-person classes. Thus, some believe online classes should be discounted.

In this paper, I will discuss my opinion, in supporting the claim that students (such as myself) should be partially reimbursed for the MBA tuition of Spring 2020. My opinion is limited only to MBA students, not undergraduates, of whom fall under a different set of educational circumstances. Furthermore, this opinion refers only for the semester of Spring 2020, while considering the future tuition cost of Fall 2020 if it remains online.

When considering an in-person MBA program, there are three important sides to its value; the degree, the quality of education, and the networking. Thus, when comparing the cost of an in-person MBA to an online MBA degree, one must ask themselves – how is the academic journey compromised when online in comparison to in person?

Part one considers the MBA degree. Graduating MBA students will receive an MBA degree; this aspect of the MBA is not compromised. There is no change to the value of the MBA diploma when switched to online.

Part two is considering the quality of education in the academic journey. This aspect is partially compromised due to the following reasons. First, students are denied academic resources when studying online, including: library services, tutoring groups, club meetings, and office hours. According to (2020), traditional classroom learning is more effective than online courses because it better develops students’ interpersonal skills, retention of learning material, and communication skills. Communication skills are incredibly important to students. quoted Richard Branson, the founder of The Virgin Group controlling over 400 companies in various industries, saying that communication is the most important skill a leader can have (Gallo, 2015).

Additionally, group projects, which are an important aspect of the education process, are highly challenged in an online learning environment. Moreover, the ability to practice public speaking, argumentative skills, and discussion abilities are also compromised because the opportunity of physically standing in front of a classroom, and/or hold a live in-person discussion is impossible online. All of the aforementioned are essential skills of a leader.

Ethically speaking, students have the chance to choose whether they want to complete their degree online at various schools across the country, including within some SUNY schools. Students who were displaced mid-semester likely to do their MBA in-person because of the deficiencies to the education described in this paper. Therefore, the ethical principle guides that if a situation is forced upon a person, and was not chosen by him/her, then this person should be compensated (McMurtrie, 2020).

More importantly, top business schools in the country recognize the fact that online MBA programs do not offer the same quality of education as in-person degrees do. Therefore, most schools that offer both in-person and online MBA programs price the tuition of each program differently. Based on research of the top MBA programs in the country, most public and private schools give between a 15% to 20% discount on tuition to do the MBA online vs. in person. For example, the University of Southern California gives a 15% discount ($124,740 vs. $106,108), and the University of Minnesota gives a 20% discount for non-residents ($102,912 vs. $82,212). If students are forced online, they should not have to pay in-person tuition when schools around the country agree on prior trends that online education should be cheaper.

Part three is the networking experience of an MBA, which is also being compromised when attending school online vs. in person. Many students and professionals find networking as the most valuable aspect of the MBA process (, 2020). Students testified online that they prefer on-campus learning because they get to meet more people and engage with clubs and organizations. Furthermore, some students said they prefer on-campus learning for the strict schedule, helping students stay organized and successful. (Starks, 2017)

According to the Princeton Review, “The professional network you build at business school will extend beyond your peers to include contacts outside of your program: you'll interact with professors in the classroom and during global immersions, business leaders on and off-campus, working alumni, and other professional connections at networking events “ (2020).

The presented facts display that the MBA college experience has been compromised for most students in the Spring 2020 semester due to the switch to an online learning environment from in-person. In conclusion, I believe students should be reimbursed for 15%-20% of the Spring 2020 tuition cost.

An article by McMurtrie (2020) nicely summarized the recent pandemic-laden period by praising universities for maintaining the university processes to the best of their ability. However, the articles notes: “[A]s with an unhappy marriage, everyone involved agrees that the patched-together system of awkward Zoom classes, glitchy technology, and uncertain expectations, among both students and professors, needs to end.”

McMurtie also mentioned that parents and students unwilling to pay full price for an experience similar to what they lived in in the Spring 2020 semester: “If virtual learning is mandatory this fall, one survey (Hesel, 2020) found, two-thirds of students will expect discounts on tuition and fees. Some may avoid enrolling altogether.” Similar to the survey findings, I too am supporting a discount. Based on empirical evidence of what universities have done, a 15%-20% discount price from the in-person tuition rate for Fall 2020 would be appropriate for any school that chooses to move to an online format.



  • Carlson School of Management. 2020. Full-Time MBA Tuition. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • Carlson School of Management. 2020. Online MBA Tuition & Financial Aid. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • College 101: On Campus vs Online. 2017. [video] Directed by K. Starks. YouTube.

  • College Refund 2020. 2020. College Refund 2020. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • Gallo, C., 2015. Richard Branson: 'Communication Is The Most Important Skill Any Leader Can Possess'. [online] Forbes. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • Hesel, R., 2020. What Prospective Freshmen Think About The Fall. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • 2020. Financial Aid | USC Marshall. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • McMurtrie, B., 2020. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • Munk, C., 2020. It’S Decision Time For Colleges: Do We Give Coronavirus Refunds?. [online] WSJ. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • The Princeton Review. 2020. How An MBA Can Build Your Network. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • Ughes, S., 2020. Why Traditional Classroom Learning Is Better Than Online Courses. [online] Owlcation. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].

  • USC Online MBA. 2020. MBA Tuition, Financial Aid & Scholarships - USC Online MBA. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 June 2020].


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