Switching to remote learning has forced Gonzaga’s administration to make classrooms fit for in-person and online class sessions, and with in-person classes and campus resources being more limited than before, GU students have seen no breaks in tuition.

These updates do not come without a cost, so what kinds of accommodations are being made for students on- and off-campus that would require the same, if not more money than before?

“We have developed and introduced training modules, invested over $1 million in technology and classroom upgrades, procured large amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), and created modified formats for housing, dining and campus activities,” President Thayne McCulloh wrote in an email back in July to the GU community. 

Some of the technologies in the classroom include monitors that will be able to zoom in and out on the professor’s lectures to make the online experience feel more in-person for students choosing to study at home. 

Classrooms have also been newly equipped with microphones to allow clear sound to stream to students participating online. 

The health of all GU students is a high priority of the administration that has been working diligently within the last couple of months to ensure that all staff and students at GU have the proper resources to stay healthy while remaining in line with the Spokane Regional Health District’s guidelines. 

Each of these new health guidelines comes at a cost to ensure that places on campus are able to open up and have been equipped with the right tools to help slow the spread and protect the community. This is where a portion of that million dollars is going. 

Normally GU requires that all first and second year students move into on-campus housing but with many classes now fully remote, students had the option to complete fall semester at home, which means those students will not be billed for living on campus. 

This could potentially be another reason why students didn’t see a cut in their overall tuition, to compensate for the funds that are missing from first and second year students that have decided to stay home. 

However, students that are choosing to leave on-campus living for Thanksgiving break will see some financial refund. 

“Students who live on campus, but aren’t returning after Thanksgiving break will have a prorated portion of their housing and meal charges applied to the spring semester or refunded,” said Sarah Everett, director of financial aid.

With campus resources being able to hold a new maximum, GU administrators has become creative to discover alternative ways for students to have access to the Rudolph Fitness Center (RFC), Foley and other on-campus facilities. 

“Per the proclamation from Washington State Governor Jay Inslee that all ‘social or recreational venues’ such as gyms and fitness centers can open with restrictions, the Rudolf Fitness Center will have restrictions until further notice,” GU’s website said. 

GU is still allowing students to reserve 45-minute time slots for cardio, weight racks and other sections within the RFC which is why the fitness center is still able to be a charge for students during the virtual semester. 

“We can’t continue to do the same things that we used to do, but the most important part is your guys’ safety,” said Jose Hernandez, director the RFC.

This semester, all fees for the use of the RFC were waived for students. For this, Hernandez said he is very grateful to the President, his cabinet and all of the people who worked on figuring out all of the new COVID-19 friendly operations.

As for the dining halls, there is normally a generous amount of food options between the COG and Cataldo but now, even with both dining halls opening, there are takeout options with less varieties of food. 

Meal plans at GU are on average about $3,000 and it hasn’t changed although there are less options for food. 

Even though there have been no direct cuts in the tuition, the financial aid is a resource for students during this time as they are trying to offer alternative ways to take financial stress off of students’ bills in other ways. 

“Students Accounts and Financial Aid work together to assist students who may be experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic," Everett said. "We’re seeing a bit of an uptick in requests as a result of COVID-19."

Kayla Friedrich is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @friedrich_kayla. 

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