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Over 1,000 Columbia University students on tuition strike, demand reimbursement during COVID-19 pandemic

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More than 1,000 students at Columbia University refused to pay tuition this semester, striking against the university’s refusal to lower its fees in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced thousands of students to take online classes and limit the use of campus facilities. 

Students are demanding the university, a private Ivy League school located in New York City, slash tuition by at least 10% and increase financial aid to offset the financial burdens the pandemic has created.

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Tuition for undergraduates is $58,920 for an academic year, but when the cost of dorms, books, and transportation are factored in, the price climbs to well above $80,000, according to estimates by the university.

Strikers, who include both undergraduate and graduate students organized by the campus chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America, point to the university’s over $11 billion endowments “that they could leverage to easily alleviate every student’s urgent financial needs,” the group wrote in an article on its website. 

Students have also expressed outrage at university officials for no longer waiving tuition late fees, a temporary moratorium the school implemented that prevented late fees from acquiring on fall semester bills and that expired on Jan. 22, 2021. The strike officially commenced on Friday, when tuition bills for the semester were due. 

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“In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the University modified its late fee policy in March of 2020 and suspended all late fees until January 2021,” a spokesperson for Columbia University told Fox News on Thursday. “As communicated previously, beginning on January 22, 2021, a late payment fee of $150 will be assessed for any unpaid charges remaining from bills issued before and on December 18, 2020.”

A person close to the matter told Fox News that more than 31,000 students this academic year were late with their tuition payments. 

“This is a moment when an active reappraisal of the status quo is understandable, and we expect nothing less from our students,” the spokesperson told Fox News. “Their voices are heard by Columbia’s leadership, and their views on strengthening the University are welcomed.”

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In addition, students are pressing the school to make sweeping social justice reforms, including halting the expansion of their Manhattanville campus to stop the gentrification of the Harlem area, as well as forcing Columbia to divest from companies profiting off of Israeli apartheid.

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