Op-Ed: Should Colleges Offer Deferral?


Mia Viola

College recruiting materials


Due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, it is unclear if many universities will be able to conduct classes on campus this upcoming fall. For the class of 2020, the possibility of another semester of online learning is scary. Further, many universities have released statements notifying incoming freshmen that they will continue to charge full tuition, even if it is necessary to move to distance learning. Since the situation is completely unprecedented and many families are in an uncertain financial situation, colleges should consider allowing students to defer for a semester for free. 

Many university administrations argue that tuition must remain at full cost in order to maintain campus centers and update online curriculum. While this is a completely valid point, one simply cannot compare the quality of online and in person classes. For STEM majors who spend large amounts of time in a lab, the quality of learning decreases dramatically when learning online. An online lab is nothing compared to a live one. Due to the sharp decline in quality of education, universities should either offer discounted tuition to students learning remotely, or simply let them defer admissions until they are able to learn on campus. 

Punahou senior Jade Hagihara says that she struggles with the possibility of online schooling this coming fall. “It’s hard for me to justify paying full tuition if I am just going to learn from home. I’m not sure that I would defer a semester, but it would be nice to at least have the option.”  The same is true for many students who may seriously rethink their college plans if a semester of distance learning is put in place. 

Punahou senior Michelle Tsui disagrees, saying “I know lots of people would be extremely upset if in person schooling was cancelled, but I personally don’t care that much. I don’t mind online learning, and I think I would actually like staying with my family a little longer.”  Michelle’s opinion is more the minority view, although it does shed light on the upsides of another semester of distance learning. 

Local pediatrician Beverly Pai says that colleges should have a backup plan for the possibility of a second wave. “It is likely that students will be able to start off the year on campus, but have to come back home once a second wave hits. I know it is hard for universities to offer deferral due to the economic ramifications, but I do think that it should be an option for families that are struggling financially.”. 

College is one of the only things that the class of 2020 has had to look forward to during this unprecedented time. The opportunity to have a fresh start in a new school is appealing to many. 

While many students will choose not to defer, it would be  a nice option for those who feel as if online classes are not a good fit, or for families who are struggling financially.  While it may be expensive and inconvenient for colleges to offer the option of deferral, it is the right thing to do. The class of 2020 has sacrificed several important rites of passage, and it is only fair for colleges to offer the option of an educational experience that is untouched by the pandemic.