With the completion of the first two weeks of classes of the new school year, it is not uncommon to find students huddled up in corners, stressing to finish assignments and complete papers. Although assigning homework to and grading hundreds of students in the shortest possible period of time could have been a potential problem in a university as large as NC State, many NC State professors use online resources like Cengage and WebAssign to work around this problem.
While the use of this technology to simplify academics is a good cause, it is ridiculous to expect students to undertake this unavoidable expenditure to be able to view and complete their assignments.
WebAssign is an American educational company that provides online homework applications for faculty and students, among several other online homework services. Coincidentally, WebAssign was developed by a small group of academics in the Department of Physics at NC State in 1997. In 2016, it was acquired by Cengage Learning, an educational content company headquartered in Boston.
Though the concept of using such online content companies in university makes a lot of sense, I strongly disagree with this system that forces students to pay to complete their homework. Textbooks can have numerous alternatives, like donations, sharing, hand-me-downs and library rentals, while online homework can only be accessed in one specific manner.
Furthermore, it is no secret that NC State charges a considerable amount of money from its students under the banner of tuition and fees — approximately $9100 for NC residents and $29,220 for out-of-state students per year. If the school insists on using platforms such as Cengage for mandatory academic purposes, the cost of each student’s necessary homework programs should be included in the first fees students pay at the start of every semester.
Cengage Unlimited, the subscription most students would take if they have multiple teachers using it, costs $119.99 for four months, $179.99 for a year and $239.99 for two years. While this does seem like a lot of money for a broke college kid paying for their daily expenses using money made off a part-time job, it wouldn’t seem as scary when added next to a $29,220 tuition fee that out-of-state students like me pay.
The Wolfpack One Card is the official ID card for NC State. Using it, students can access their meal plans, check out books from the library, work out at the gym and even use it as a debit card if linked to their PNC bank account. Furthermore, students’ unity IDs are also linked to their health insurance using Student Blue, which is billed per semester along with their other fees. If NC State can link a student’s ID with all these resources and can even form a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield to provide coverage with Student Blue, surely they have the ability to put the cost of things like Cengage and WebAssign on the first bill so that students know exactly what they are walking into.
Transitioning from high school to university is hard enough, and for some students, it was a transition to a different country. While NC State does make a lot of effort to help new students feel welcome in this new and sometimes scary environment, an even scarier environment is one where students have to pay an absurd amount just to access their homework.