April 17, 2002

ResNet May Fall Under Financial Aid

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The Student Assembly (S.A.) formally asked President Hunter R. Rawlings III to cover ResNet under financial aid for the 2003-2004 school year in a letter sent last week, following the unanimous passage of a resolution requesting the same.

ResNet provides high-speed Internet access to students living in campus housing.

Rates will jump from $22 a month this academic year to $44 a month for next year.

“Many students feel that this hike in ResNet costs almost shows a complete disregard for students by the administration,” said the letter’s co-author, Abeezer Tapia ’02, engineering representative and chair of the S.A.’s Cornell Information Technologies (CIT) committee. “This translates to a dramatic increase in the student cost-of-living.”

There may be more agreement than disagreement on including ResNet in financial aid than previously thought.

“I’m very much in favor of what the students are asking,” said Polley A. McClure, vice president for information technologies. “I want to get it done. I’m optimistic.”

McClure will be part of a committee to settle the debate that will also include Carolyn N. Ainslie, vice president for budget and planning and Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services.

However, administrators have expressed doubt that the letter’s April 24 deadline for an answer will be met.

“I don’t know what the timetable will be but we will consider this very seriously,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

Tapia indicated that a full answer need not meet the deadline, which is a week from today but stressed the importance of resolving the matter before the end of this year, before he and other S.A. members graduate.

“Whether they come to a final decision now or in June, they need to make a commitment by April 24,” Tapia said.

How the costs for ResNet will be assigned to financial aid, if included, is likely to take some time, according to McClure.

One option would fold the ResNet fee into the housing fee, which is covered by financial aid.

“Students who can afford Internet access and those financially burdened will be covered,” Tapia said.

Another option would include the ResNet fee in tuition, which would mean it would have to be considered a “mandatory fee,” according to McClure.

“The amount charged per student would be vastly less,” McClure said. “The logic would be that everyone lives in University housing at some point.”

The letter criticized the rate increase for adversely affecting needier students while also raising the increasing necessity of the Internet as a tool for students.

“For the 3,000 engineers almost all class materials are on course websites,” Tapia said. “It’s time for our University to realize the importance of the Internet.”

Susan Chavez ’03, a ResNet subscriber and resident of the Multicultural Living Learning Unit (McLLU) said she will struggle to pay the $449 yearly fee.

“I use the Internet for research, course readings on e-reserve, staying in touch with my family and cybermentoring through the Cornell Cooperative Extension,” Chavez said.

ResNet is considerably more expensive than many off-campus Internet services, although it is faster, according to ResNet officials.

RoadRunner cable modem service is $45 a month but one RoadRunner line can be split among several users or computers, significantly reducing the cost.

“We should have an option to use another company,” Chavez said. “They’re completely monopolistic and if they’re going to raise prices they should have informed students first.”

Another worry is the effect the rate doubling will have on minority students and program houses.

“This [hike] is going to affect all students,” said student-trustee elect Funa Maduka ’04, minority liaison on the S.A. “As far as program houses, it will detrimentally affect the enrollment.”

Cornell’s ResNet service is the only on-campus Internet provider in the Ivy League not covered by financial aid, according to Tapia.

Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania report 100 percent subscription rates among their students. Among Cornell students living in the dormitories, 89 percent are subscribed to ResNet.

Archived article by Peter Norlander