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More than 3,500 people have signed an online petition as of Saturday afternoon asking the University of Wyoming to waive the fees that students will have to pay for classes that have moved online for the fall semester.

“It’s just about financial accountability and transparency,” said Hunter Bullard, a senior at UW who started the petition. “The university works for us, the students.”

Students taking courses that have moved online will pay the typical distance-learning fee on top of tuition, of $25 per credit-hour. This is a significant step up from some of the program fees that are charged for the same courses when they are taught on campus.

Fees could rise from $9 to $75 for a typical three credit-hour course in the College of Arts and Sciences, as long as it is not a science or performance class.

Bullard’s $54 in program fees will become $378 in distance-learning fees. She is a political science major, so all six of the courses she has enrolled in are within the College of Arts and Sciences. Five of her six courses were moved online, according to her course registration.

Not all students will see a significant increase in the fees they are charged, said Chad Baldwin, a spokesperson at UW.

“It very much depends upon the student and the courses he/she is taking,” Baldwin wrote in an email. “Some of the course fees are higher than the distance delivery fee; some are not.”

Other schools and programs within the university charge higher program fees than the College of Arts and Sciences, so many students will not see as much of an increase as Bullard. Courses in the Education College and Engineering and Applied Science College all have program fees equal to or higher than the distance learning fee, along with scientific and quantitative courses in some other colleges.

The petition that Bullard started asks the university to waive the distance-learning fee for courses that would have been held in-person in other years.

“Given that many students will either not be able to take necessary classes in-person or will prefer to take online classes for their own personal health, the University should abolish the additional fee presented by these classes,” the petition says. “This will promote public health and create fairness among students.”

The increased fees could create a financial burden for some students, the petition says. University officials said earlier this month that UW expects an enrollment decline of up to 20% this fall, driven largely by the nationwide economic downturn.

About 35% of UW courses are expected to be delivered entirely online this fall under the university’s plan to reopen its Laramie campus, the university said earlier this month. This figure more than double the 15% of courses that are delivered online in normal years as part of the school’s distance learning program.

The remainder of UW’s courses this fall—more than 2,000—will have some in-person component, UW has said. This includes courses that will be run entirely in-person, with social distancing, while there are others for which students might be online for some of the sessions. Courses with any in-person component are expected to be charged the traditional fee.

UW has posted a guide to the fee changes for classes that were moved online on the registrar’s website: https://www.uwyo.edu/registrar/delivery-change/program-distance-delivery-fees.html.

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