Columbia University students threaten to withhold ‘exorbitant’ tuition costs next semester citing ‘economic depression’

More than 1,400 Columbia University students are threatening to withhold their tuition payments next semester, claiming the “exorbitant” fees are exacerbating their financial hardships in the midst of the coronavirus-related economic downturn.

Collectively, they have signed a petition calling on school leaders to “alleviate the economic burden on students” by reducing the cost of attendance by 10% while also increasing financial aid by 10%.

Students are also pushing for officials to offer grants in replace of the school’s work-study program so students will “automatically” be given that portion of their financial aid rather than paying it off through “work-study, summer jobs, or other means,” according to the petition.


Tuition rates alone, which amount to over $30,000 per semester, “constitute a significant source of financial hardship during this economic depression,” organizers wrote, adding that the Ivy League school in New York City is one of the most expensive universities in the nation.

However, school officials confirmed to FOX Business that undergraduate tuition this year was frozen in response to the pandemic and remains at $58,920 for the 2020–2021 academic year.

Columbia University, located in the north end of Manhattan (iStock)

Still, students argued the “financial burden posed by high tuition costs and student debt” is greater than ever before due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic recession.

Earlier this year, Columbia announced that all undergraduate classes would be conducted remotely because of the pandemic, which students argued is even more reason to slash the cost.

“We are calling for a tuition reduction partly because of the challenges, equity issues, and diminished educational quality entailed by remote classes,” organizers wrote.


The organizers also noted that fellow institutions such as Princeton University have already reduced tuition by 10% for all undergraduate students during 2020-2021 whether they are on campus or learning remotely.

However, combating the high cost of tuition, “should not come at the expense of instructor or worker pay” the students argued. Rather, it should come at the expense of “bloated administrative salaries, expansion projects, and other expenses that don’t benefit students and workers,” according to the petition.


“The mission of our tuition strike is to make Columbia work for the needs of its students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the surrounding community,” Townesend Nelson, one of the petition’s organizers, told FOX Business.

In doing so, Nelson says they hope to “inspire and empower students and working people across the country to take direct action to improve their lives.”

While the petition also calls for halting construction projects in Harlem to further investment into the safety of Black students and West Harlem residents, the cost of tuition has been a recurring focus for students.


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NASA objects to new megaconstellation, citing risk of “catastrophic collison”

Dashes fleck the night sky.
Enlarge / Sixty Starlink Internet communication satellites from SpaceX are seen in the night sky over Vladivostok.

NASA has formally commented (PDF) on a request by a US company to build a megaconstellation of satellites at an altitude of 720km above the Earth’s surface, citing concerns about collisions. This appears to be the first time that NASA has publicly commented on such an application for market access, which is pending before the Federal Communications Commission.

“NASA submits this letter during the public comment period for the purpose of providing a better understanding of NASA’s concerns with respect to its assets on-orbit, to further mitigate the risks of collisions for the mutual benefit of all involved,” wrote Samantha Fonder, an engineer for the space agency.

At issue are plans put forth by AST & Science, which intends to build a constellation of more than 240 large satellites, essentially deploying “cell towers” in space to provide 4G and possibly 5G broadband connection directly to cell phones on Earth. The company, based in Midland, Texas, calls its constellation “SpaceMobile” and has raised an estimated $120 million.

The space agency felt compelled to comment on AST’s proposal for several reasons. Most notably, the proposed altitude for the SpaceMobile constellation lies near the “A-Train,” a group of 10 Earth-science monitoring satellites operated by NASA and the US Geological Survey, as well as partners in France and Japan. “Historical experience with the A-Train constellation has shown that this particular region of space tends to produce a large number of conjunctions between space objects,” the NASA letter states.

They’re big, too

The satellites are also very large. In order to provide service, AST plans to build spacecraft with large phased array antennae—900 square meters. According to NASA, in planning for potential conjunctions with other satellites and debris in this orbit, this would require proscribing a “hard-body radius” of 30 meters, or as much as 10 times larger than other satellites.

Maneuvering around the proposed SpaceMobile constellation would be extraordinarily taxing, NASA said. “For the completed constellation of 243 satellites, one can expect 1,500 mitigation actions per year and perhaps 15,000 planning activities,” the space agency stated. “This would equate to four maneuvers and 40 active planning activities on any given day.”

Finally, the space agency is concerned because AST has never built a satellite remotely close in size to the 1-ton or larger vehicles that will populate its constellation. Given this lack of experience, it is expected that 10 percent or more of the satellites may fail, making them unable to maneuver to avoid collisions. NASA found the risk of a catastrophic collision to be “unacceptably high.”

NASA submitted its comment on October 30, and the comment period closed Monday. Most of the other comments on the AST application were supportive.

In response to a query from Ars about NASA’s submission, AST said it would work with NASA to ameliorate its concerns. “We have reviewed NASA’s letter and are confident that we can work with them to

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Citing a ‘toxic atmosphere,’ a Black admissions employee resigns from Loyola University, prompting a discrimination probe and calls for racial justice on campus

At Loyola University Chicago, where fewer than 6% of undergraduates are Black, Marcus Mason-Vivit’s presence comforted minority students who rarely found someone who looked like them on campus.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Marcus Mason-Vivit, shown on Loyola University Chicago's campus, resigned from his job in the admissions office, citing a "toxic atmosphere ... particularly pertaining to people of color."

© Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Marcus Mason-Vivit, shown on Loyola University Chicago’s campus, resigned from his job in the admissions office, citing a “toxic atmosphere … particularly pertaining to people of color.”

A Black man himself, Mason-Vivit led the private Jesuit university’s efforts to increase racial diversity among first-year students in his role at the Undergraduate Admission Office. He was known to send high school seniors handwritten letters encouraging them to attend Loyola and for going out of his way to forge relationships with the Black students he met.

But last month, Mason-Vivit stepped down from his position in multicultural recruitment. In a scathing resignation letter that quickly circulated on social media, he called the admissions office a “toxic atmosphere of hostility, intimidation, fear and manipulation … especially pertaining to people of color” and described an incident where his boss, the dean of undergraduate admission, allegedly made a racially disparaging remark. His departure has prompted Loyola to initiate an investigation.

Now, students and faculty are rallying behind Mason-Vivit, raising questions about Loyola’s newly stated goal of “becoming a fully inclusive anti-racist institution.”

“We do not think that this initiative will achieve much credibility until the issues, such as those raised by Marcus Mason, and the school’s handling of such complaints have been thoroughly addressed,” leaders of a Loyola faculty organization wrote in a letter to university President Jo Ann Rooney.

In an interview with the Tribune, Mason-Vivit, 34, said he tried reporting his concerns to the human resources office in July but felt brushed aside, leading eventually to his Aug. 24 resignation.

“I will no longer work in an environment diametrically opposed to my principles and the obligation to respect my existence,” he wrote in his resignation letter.

The dean of undergraduate admission, Erin Moriarty, declined to comment, saying by email that she does “not want to jeopardize the integrity of this investigation in any way by speaking out of turn.”

Loyola spokeswoman Anna Rozenich confirmed the investigation, related to “allegations of discrimination” in the office, is ongoing but would not say who is conducting it. After Loyola’s Office for Equity and Compliance began an internal investigation, the school decided to hire outside experts to lead the probe “due to the charged nature” of the allegations, Rozenich said.

“Out of respect for the rights of all parties, we must maintain that all parties deserve to be heard, and allow the investigation to be thoroughly conducted and conclude while refraining from judgment or condemnation,” Rozenich said in an emailed statement.

She said “appropriate action” will be taken at the end of the investigation and emphasized Loyola’s policy prohibiting discrimination.

Mason-Vivit, however, said he could no longer remain silent. His last day as Loyola’s associate director for multicultural recruitment was Sept. 4, and he previously worked in the admission office from

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