Does e-learning justify high tuition fees?

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In addition to businesses, university students have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, higher education institutions are using a variety of online applications and platforms to keep lessons going. The quality of online lessons is not equal to face-to-face lectures.

         Most university programs require specialized equipment, classrooms, and laboratories for students gain a thorough understanding of the subject matter. In other words, students need the facilities of the school to master their field.

Deputy Prime Minister of Mongolia Ya.Sodbaatar said that in a survey of 86 university students on e-learning activities, 82.5 percent said the curriculum was effective and satisfactory. However, students have expressed their views on the ineffectiveness of e-learning and called for reduced tuition fees on social media through the use of the hashtag “savestudents”.

In the 2020-2021 academic year, there are 11,970 teachers and staff and 147,293 students in 88 higher education institutions in the country. Some 138,237 or 93.8 percent of students are studying in Ulaanbaatar, and 66,934 or 48.4 percent in provincial areas. Internet connection is a major problem for students in rural areas. Students have said that without access to school
facilities, as well as other learning resources that they’re used to, they don’t want to pay the same amount of tuition. They don’t have the same learning experience, so they should not have to pay the same fees, students say.

IGNORING LAW

The Law on COVID-19 Prevention, Fight, and Mitigation of its Socioeconomic Impact was passed on April 29, 2020, and revised on December 31 last year. The law provides for a reduction in tuition fees for e-learning.

In particular, Article 7.1.8 of the law stipulates that a procedure shall be approved to organize TV and e-lessons and training activities of educational institutions at all levels regardless of the form of ownership for a certain period of time, to reduce tuition fees and to transfer them to future payments, while Article 7.1.9 states, “In case of delays or restrictions on activities of educational institutions at all levels for a certain period of time, a delivery of quality and accessible distance learning in electronic or other forms, and participation and control of teachers and students will be improved”.

However, so far, neither public nor private universities have reduced tuition. In other words, this law has not led to the desired outcome. Therefore, students are making petitions and demanding a reduction in tuition fees.

Student of Shikhikhutug University B.Michidmaa:
If we do not pay tuition, we will not be allowed to take the exam. For me, it is not possible to attend e-classes because I live in the countryside, far from the soum center. Also, dormitory fees needs to be refunded. I paid my annual fee and lived for only a month. Now students at all levels will not able to use classrooms, electricity or water. Therefore, tuition should be reduced.

Mongolian Student Development Council (MSDC):

Students and their parents are in a difficult situation. Students cannot afford to wait. Although university students have made request to their schools’ finance department, none have made a significant decision. Now is the time to express ourselves freely and change the situation for ourselves. We have a legislation to solve the problem.

Student of the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences B.Nomin-Erdene:

We cannot do our internship at all now. I am going to do an internship at a hospital next semester, but it is not clear what the school will decide in the future. Graduating students are not able to gain practical experience. But we paid the full tuition fee to the school. We are also unable to conduct experiments using chemical reagents.

Student of the National University of Mongolia (NUM) E.Otgonjargal:

Even in really difficult conditions, we paid 2.3 million to 3.5 million MNT per year in tuition. But I could not acquire enough knowledge. The school's e-system regularly makes errors and crashes during exams. Some teachers take a long time to post their lessons on the web. I do not have a book to do my assignments, so I get information from Google. It is difficult to find clear and accurate information from it. The school administration disseminates information very poorly. At least books in the library were not scanned and not transferred to PDF format.

Third year student at the Mongolian State University of Arts and Culture D.Azjargal:

I study monumental art. Although I am a third year student, I know as much as a first year student. It is very difficult to learn important professional subjects from a distance. Most lessons are based on practice rather than theory. Other students cannot study directing, music, or singing virtually. In addition, there is a fee for the use of equipment. We did not use equipment, so the school has to refund payments.

Fourth year student at the Mongolian State University of Education (MSUE):

I don't understand how the survey found that students are 82 percent satisfied with e-learning. This is the second time that we have been studying online, but there has been no improvement in the quality and accessibility of e-lessons. Some
teachers miss classes. A lot of assignments are given in the last week of the semester. However, there are teachers who teach on time. In addition, e-learning is a headache for students in rural areas who do not have internet connection. The books and textbooks provided for an assignment are not available on the internet. I refuse to pay full tuition as there will be no running costs, such as electricity.

Fourth year student at the School of Energy of the Mongolian University of Science and Technology (MUST):

It is not possible to fully master subjects that are based on laboratory and practical experience. It is hard to understand the intricacies of engineering by watching videos. In the future, if a training is conducted in this way, science and specialized students will be left with meaningless diplomas without practical knowledge. As for me, e-learning is not enough for learning
engineering. Nowadays, if we knew other languages, we can use Google and YouTube to get any information for free. More practical training is needed. Other students probably think the same.

Second year student at Ikh Zasag University:

Our school does not offer e-learning in accordance with a specific schedule. Teachers squeeze their lessons in two to three days. So I stare at the phone all day and wait for classes to start. Lectures are not explained by teachers, so we just copy them. Due to the lack of textbooks in the e-library, it is difficult to take exams and write assignments.

First year student at the University of Humanities of Mongolia: 

Satisfaction with e-learning was less than 50 percent, and I did not really learn anything. There is no communication between the government, universities and students. Choices are limited if we do not pay tuition in full. There is an opportunity to reduce tuition or transfer it to the next tuition. Solving student loans does not mean that all problems will be solved. If students don't pay today, they will pay later. A loan is not a discount! A loan is a loan.

Although students have expressed their concerns, universities have not issued a formal statement. When we contacted finance and training departments of NUM, MUST and MSUE, they said that they did not make a final decision, and are studying about reduction of tuition. However, the University of Finance and Economics of Mongolia offered an 8 percent tuition discount for its students.

However, universities in the US and Canada have offered tuition discounts of 10 to 30 percent, while the British government has promised to approve an additional funding for universities.

As a result of online survey and lawsuits filed by students, 40 percent of all private and public universities in South Korea announced that they will reimburse half of their tuition. The survey conducted by the National University Student Council Network among more than 20,000 students at over 200 universities found that 99 percent of respondents wanted refunds for the past semester, with the most cited reason being “remote classes are not up to par.”

During the plenary session, Deputy Prime Minister Ya.Sodbaatar said that preparations are underway to conduct the second semester training at all levels in a combination of classroom and electronic form. In this sense, universities seem to be “avoiding” tuition discounts.

However, Cabinet instructed the education minister to enforce procedures to reduce student tuition fees and transfer them to the future tuition fees during the transition of learning activities to TV and electronic forms. 

Misheel Lkhasuren

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