Despite charging fifty thousand dollars yearly for online courses, Pomona College is disallowing students who take a leave of absence (LOA) from transferring coursework from another institution for credit during the 2020-2021 academic year. Students learned of this decision amid a global pandemic and economic meltdown, when many are both less able and less willing to pay for expensive online courses. In the past, Pomona College permitted students to transfer credits from other colleges during an LOA.
In the college’s FAQ section about the upcoming academic year, Pomona states that “if a student decides to take a leave of absence, they will not be eligible for student employment with the College, will not be eligible for a financial aid package or be eligible for the Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP). Also note you will not be allowed to transfer in coursework from another institution for the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters. Your leave may be a semester or the full year.”
Some students feel frustrated and betrayed by Pomona College’s decision. Dear Claremont Colleges, an Instagram account dedicated to being a “safe space for BIPOC & other marginalized people,” shared an anonymous statement from a rising Pomona sophomore that condemned the decision. The student wrote that Pomona College’s new policy “[felt] like a punishment and a way to make more money” and that “it’s upsetting that [Pomona College] made this decision in the midst of an economic crisis and global pandemic.”
Pomona College has a $2.3 billion endowment, and approximately 1,700 students, amounting to $1.3 million per student. However, a significant portion of the endowment is illiquid. Unlike certain other top tier liberal arts colleges, such as Williams College that reduced tuition by 11.4 percent, Pomona College’s tuition remains the same as the previous year’s.
Pomona College is a member of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, a group of top liberal arts colleges sharing the same campus in Southern California. Claremont McKenna College continues to allow “students on leave to transfer up to 2 units of pre-approved coursework back to CMC for each regular semester away.” However, students’ primary purpose for taking an LOA cannot be to complete full-time coursework at another institution. Harvey Mudd College, Scripps College, and Pitzer College, making up the rest of the Claremont Colleges, are also allowing students to transfer courses taken at regionally accredited institutions.
Update: This article has been updated to include Pomona’s statement from its FAQ.