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University Of Chicago Students Say They Won't Pay Tuition Unless It's Slashed In Half Due To COVID-19 Crisis

CHICAGO (CBS) -- University of Chicago students say they won't pay their tuition unless the administration slashes it in half.

An empty campus has students worried about empty pockets. Tuition is expected to stay the same even as the COVID-19 crisis cancels in person classes and student activities and financial losses set in.

"Currently, I'm dipping into my savings," said Luis Rubio.

More than 1,000 students have signed a petition demanding a slash of spring tuition in half and stoppage of fees, among other requests. They want it to last until the end of the crisis.

Rubio and Anna Attie=, now roommates in quarantine off campus, are putting effort into the new group UChicago for Fair Tuition. Rubio, a sophomore, said changes like virtual learning come at a cost he and others shouldn't have to pay.

"It's difficult for a lot of students that need resources that are here on campus," Rubio said.

Students say the university has the means to take a cut. University of Chicago Tuition clocks in at almost $57,000 a year. The school also boasts and $8.2 billion endowment on its website.

"I understand the university is probably having to make some financial arrangements that are different and adapting to this crisis, but the university will recover and many students will not," Attie said.

Administration tells CBS 2 it realizes the strain of the crisis but continues full tuition as online classes count as full credits toward a degree. They also pointed to the many financial aid helpers, and gave the following statement:

"Given the increased demand for financial support from many of our students, we have made it a priority to systematically expand the Odyssey program, to continue to meet the full financial need of our students. All student financial support commitments will be fully honored and increased financial support will be provided to those College students with increased demonstrated need.

More on financial aid

"The University of Chicago is one of the few universities that provides truly comprehensive financial support. UChicago admits U.S. students without regard to their financial need, meets the full financial need of all students who are admitted, and does not expect students to take out any loans. We have eliminated student loans from need-based financial aid packages, which has dramatically reduced student debt upon graduation.

"As of 2018, UChicago guarantees free tuition for families with incomes under $125,000 per year (with typical assets). Families earning less than $60,000 (with typical assets) have full tuition, fees, room and board covered by financial aid. The average financial aid award for first-year students is more than $50,000. The UChicago Empower initiative, announced in 2018, made standardized testing optional and expanded financial aid, contributing to enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds.

"Compared with major four-year universities in Illinois and nationwide, UChicago graduates have among the lowest levels of student debt and exceptional career outcomes, including placement with substantive job opportunities and top graduate programs."

Other universities like Northwestern have created COVID-19 related relief but are not budging on tuitions. DePaul has promised not to raise tuition for the next academic year.

U of C students want the same, or they say the administration will see the impact. The group says more than 350 students will strike and hold off on paying spring tuition if the school does not make changes by the April 29 deadline.

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