The added cost of online learning, NCCC charges "distance learning fee"

The fee is $26 per credit
Posted at 11:16 PM, Aug 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 15:00:05-04

Caitlyn McDole is now receiving a refund of the distance learning fee.

Niagara County Community College sent an email to students on Friday saying distance learning fees will be waived for the fall semester for classes that were scheduled to be face-to-face when the student initially registered, and have since been moved to online. The school said students should allow time for the adjustments to be made, adding that students may receive a refund check depending on their account status.

Below is the story as originally reported on Wednesday:

Students at Niagara County Community College want to know why they're being charged more for less access to campus.

Caitlyn McDole will begin her final year at NCCC in just over three weeks, but she saw an unexpected item when she got her tuition bill, a nearly $200 added distance learning fee for classes that will now be held online. A fee she said she was never warned of.

“We’re not choosing for this to happen, we want to be here in our school, with our teachers, we’ve built a rapport with our teachers,” McDole said.

All of her classes were scheduled to be in person when she registered for the fall semester a few months ago. McDole said the school sent them several emails to keep checking for schedule changes, but never mentioned a distance learning fee. Two of her classes have moved to hybrid or online.

In a statement to 7 Eyewitness News, NCCC said the $26 per credit fee supports the development and delivery of online courses, and added students may be entitled to a refund.

"NCCC is assessing a refund policy pertaining to the distance learning fee charged to students," said Barbara M. DeSimone, the school's Director of Public Relations. "If a student originally registered for a face to face class and the modality (instruction method) was changed to a hybrid or online class, they may be entitled to refund. The Business Office will review registrations after the term begins and will issue reductions to fees as warranted."

McDole is studying to be an x-ray technician, and said the added fee could alter her payment plan.

“I don’t have enough money to put towards my summer tuition for next year, if I don’t have that $188 towards that tuition, because I can’t take out any extra student loans,” she said.

Students are also charged the normal recreational fee, which includes facilities like the gym which will be closed for the fall semester. NCCC said even though there will be no sports or gym this fall, the $54 fee will cover outdoor activities, like lawn yoga, and virtual fitness activities.

McDole said she would've taken out a larger loan or saved more if she she knew about the distance learning fee sooner.

“I don’t want a discount, I just don’t want to pay a fee that I didn’t anticipate having to pay," she said.