When the coronavirus hit, hundreds of Boston University freshmen were getting ready for a study abroad program in London this summer.
"We were doing our pre-departure documents and getting our passports, and then obviously everything came crashing down when coronavirus happened," BU freshman Albert Kelleher said.
The London program was supposed to last for six weeks and at the end of it, students would accumulate a full-semester of credits, but in less time. The study abroad program was ultimately canceled and replaced with six weeks of Zoom classes, and no London experience.
Kelleher said that, for weeks, his parents kept asking him if he had heard from BU and the status of tuition costs.
"I was assuring them for weeks that they would lower tuition," Kelleher said. "April 30, the Dean of the College of General Studies sent out an email, saying tuition would be kept the exact same."
According to the university's website, a traditional semester on campus in Boston costs $37,501. The cost of the semester in London is nearly the same at $37,195. Tuition in both settings comes out to $27,360, and that's how much the university says students must now pay for six weeks of online courses.
"Six weeks of Zoom classes is vastly different than an abroad experience," Kelleher said. "Obviously, if we were in London, and we were having that in-person learning experience. It would have been the full semester that we signed up for."
BU did not respond to NBC10 Boston's repeated request for comment, but according to an email sent to students, Dean of the College of General Studies Natalie McKnight told them, in part: "Some of you have asked about the charges for the 6-week freshman summer term. It is a full semester's worth of credit (14 credits total), and it is university policy to charge full tuition for students who are attending full time. … If BU reduced the tuition charge, we'd have to let faculty and staff go and then our students would not have the same quality of teaching and service that they need and deserve and that is befitting of a BU degree."
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Unhappy, Albert has since started an online petition, requesting the university reconsider its position. It's received nearly 1,800 student signatures and the attention of BU’s President, Dr. Robert Brown.
In an email sent to Albert directly, Brown wrote, "I have received and reviewed the petition expressing displeasure with our decision. … Students in CGS who take classes this summer will be full-time students and will take a full semester's worth of credit. As Dean McKnight has explained, full tuition is charged for all full-time students."
"They are still trying to pass off what is clearly a vastly different product than what they advertised to us, and what they sold to us, and what we agreed to pay for," Kelleher said. "We are going to keep pushing for this, because that's what's right."
BU is working to replace this year's summer London experience with an optional one-week trip in May 2021. Tuition for this year's summer semester is due by the end of the month.