Texas universities are moving more classes online, but keeping tuition the same. Students are asking if it’s worth the money.

Annabelle Hicks, Ann Marie Cotman Hicks and Allison Hicks outside their north Austin home on July 1, 2020. Annabelle, a Trinity University freshman, and Allison, a University of North Texas senior, both plan to return to their respective campuses this fall. (Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune)
Annabelle Hicks, Ann Marie Cotman Hicks and Allison Hicks outside their north Austin home on July 1, 2020. Annabelle, a Trinity University freshman, and Allison, a University of North Texas senior, both plan to return to their respective campuses this fall. (Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune)

Sarah Ramos has spent her summer anxiously awaiting a fall return to Texas A&M’s campus at College Station. She is hoping for some normalcy after she and her classmates were abruptly forced off campus last semester and into Zoom-based classes for the remainder of the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But as Texas scrambles to address a soaring number of COVID-19 cases, Ramos is worried her upcoming course load could once again be moved online. That’s just not the college experience she’s looking for. So now, Ramos says she’s considering withdrawing from A&M for the fall and delaying her upcoming graduation.

“I do want to return to school, but the likelihood of that is teetering right now,” said Ramos, who’s working at a grocery store over the summer to save up for tuition. “I want the best education possible, and I really don't think that I can get that online. I can't get that from a screen.”

Texas universities are finalizing their fall reopening plans as August approaches. The state’s major public universities are generally all offering some in-person classes, though most schools have moved sizable portions of the fall course schedule online or are offering classes in a hybrid format. A&M is planning on conducting at least 50% of classes online-only, while UT will move almost one-third of its 11,000 courses online.

These plans also paint a picture of significantly-altered campus life, with spaced out dining halls, capacity caps on classrooms and mask mandates for students and faculty in some schools.

But while school will look different, the tuition rates for many of Texas’ largest universities, including UT-Austin, University of Houston, University of North Texas and Texas Tech, will stay the same.

Now Ramos, and many other students across Texas who are weighing their plans for the fall semester, are asking themselves: will it still be worth it?

This summer, nearly all Texas universities went completely online and schools including UT-Austin and Baylor offered reduced tuition while several others waived fees for campus services like parking.