Students are campaigning for the suspension of UC Berkeley’s Cancel for Non-Payment policy, or CNP, for fall in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The policy, which drops students from classes if they do not pay 20% of their tuition by Aug. 21, has drawn ire since its inception in 2016, with campus groups alleging that it disproportionately impacts marginalized students. ASUC senators are now calling for UC Berkeley to abolish the rule for the coming semester because of the widespread financial uncertainty caused by COVID-19. A recent ASUC petition has amassed nearly 600 signatures as of press time.
“Now that we’re experiencing a global pandemic, this is not the time to have CNP,” said Julia Castro, an ASUC senator and leader of the campaign. “No student should have to feel the stress of being dropped from their classes.”
According to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff, the policy is meant to ensure that students do not neglect to drop courses they had enrolled in if they do not plan to or cannot afford to attend classes for the semester. He added that this opens seats for other students, who would otherwise be forced to wait until late into the term.
Ratliff also said in an email that students are able to re-enroll in classes after they have been dropped, but only get priority after waitlists have been processed.
The day after the student campaign was launched, campus administration added automatic exceptions for every student who receives financial aid, including “verification students,” who have not yet submitted the extra paperwork required to gauge their eligibility for financial aid, according to Castro.
While this is a significant victory, Castro said, she and other students are still working to gain exemptions for everyone.
Many international and out-of-state students are unfamiliar with the policy, according to Castro, who added that even students who are not dependent on financial aid may be struggling because of the pandemic.
UC Berkeley encourages affected students to apply for emergency loans, but these loans can only cover the required 20% of tuition for in-state students, according to the campaign.
Castro also plans to urge campus to partner with the ASUC to do a wellness impact assessment to reconsider the future need for the policy. Both she and ASUC Senator Liam Will said they hope to replace the current “consequence-oriented solution” with one built on positive encouragement and dialogue with student communities.
Every UC campus except UC Santa Cruz has a CNP, according to Castro. She added that she hopes student advocacy at UC Berkeley can set an example for other UC campuses.
“We are such a powerful generation,” Castro said. “If we’re able to abolish this policy — even if it’s only for fall 2020 — I think that’s showing every other UC and every other student advocate that you can do the same at your campus.”