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Parents, students question value of college experience during COVID-19 pandemic

SEATTLE — ‘Want a good paying job? Then go to college.’ That’s what so many of us have been told growing up.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, many colleges and universities have moved to remote learning models, leaving students and parents questioning the value of a college education in the current climate.

New COVID-19 cases in the University of Washington Greek system have many people wondering what’s going to happen when tens of thousands of students return to campus in the fall.

The UW did not say how many students in Greek houses tested positive over the past week.

We spoke to a local man whose daughter is staying at the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity for the summer. While his daughter’s test came back negative for the virus, he was told others living in the house have tested positive.

It comes as the university released its plan for the fall quarter, which includes a mix of in-class and remote learning, with courses involving more than 50 students taught online.

Many students and parents are now asking if college classes are remote in the fall if the high cost of higher education is really worth it.

18-year-old Solomon Stewart, who graduated from Nathan Hale High School this past spring, is one of those weighing his options.

“When I heard we were going to potentially not be in class for the fall, then I was like, I don’t know if I want to do this. Maybe a gap year is the move,” Stewart said.

Stewart has been accepted to Oregon State University. The out-of-state tuition is more than $28,000. It’s a big family decision. His older sister is also at home right now, attending summer school remotely at California Polytechnic State University.

For Solomon’s parents, it raises a lot of questions about the value of the college experience during COVID, versus the high cost of higher education.

“Paying out of state tuition for remote learning doesn’t make sense,” said Solomon’s mother, Kristin Stewart.

“For one, what is he going to get out of it? Is he going to get out of it what he wants for a college experience and education?” she asked.

Oregon State, like UW, and Washington State University ultimately decided to apply a hybrid model of remote and in-class learning. After learning that, Stewart made the decision to head to Corvallis, Oregon and attend Oregon State as a freshman in the fall.

“I want the college experience,” Stewart said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

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