As JMU begins online courses due to the rising number of cases of the coronavirus on campus, the issue of refunds has been talked about among the student body. Students who’ve paid for meal plans, parking passes and room and board are wondering if there’s a way of receiving their money back on something that’ll most likely not be used during the fall semester. Another issue arises when the factor of tuition plays a role in a student being refunded their money.
When the COVID-19 pandemic first landed in the United States and began shutting down schools across the nation, JMU was met with these same questions from students and their families about being refunded for their necessities. In response to this, JMU did issue refunds to on-campus residents for the spring semester; however, students only received about half of their room and board and about 75% of half a semester’s cost of their meal plan. Full-time commuter parking passes were issued a $38 refund, while other parking passes were given $19 and $13 back.
As COVID-19 has already affected this fall semester by making classes go online for the next four weeks and causing most on-campus residents to move back home, people are wondering whether or not the semester will remain online and how that’ll affect their refunds. Although this was dealt with in the previous spring semester, it was only half a semester, and refunds were issued fairly quickly. It’s different this semester due to the fact that there’s a whole semester ahead of the student body, and refunds could be handed out in different ways.
When the university decided to go online this semester for four weeks, on-campus residents were told to leave the following Monday unless they filled out an exemption form to stay in the residence halls. If the university decides to go online completely after the first four weeks, it’s more than likely that all residents will be asked to leave the campus. If this were to happen, refunds for room and board should be given. However, it wouldn’t have to be the full amount due to the fact that there’ll likely still be a spring semester. In this case, JMU should offer students a refund for half of the fall semester.
For a student’s meal plan, dining dollars and flex money should stay in place, letting students use the remaining money for the upcoming spring semester. Refunds for the regular meal plan, or “punches,” should be given in the full amount, since it’s more than likely that students will be sent home if JMU decides to go fully online, making students unable to use their punches for the remainder of the semester.
JMU parking services have already announced that they’ll be giving full $300 refunds to students who purchased a parking pass. However, refunds were only available until Sept. 11, and if someone wanted a refund, they had to take the sticker off their car and return it to parking services. The parking stickers are difficult to remove since they’re made to stick on to any object and not peel off. JMU has already said that they’ll take back stickers even if they’re damaged from being taken off cars and announced that students won’t need a parking permit to park in student lots through Oct. 4.
While room and board, meal plans and parking are currently being the focus of receiving refunds, many have begun to wonder if JMU will give them any money back for their tuition. If JMU decides to go online for the rest of the semester, that’ll mean that students won’t receive in-person teaching and hands-on material that a class may have to offer. Many majors require their students to be interactive with each other and have hands-on experience; however, that cannot happen if classes go completely online. In this case, there should be some sort of refund to students for the tuition. It doesn’t have to be much, but at least enough for what a student will be missing out on that semester.
If JMU decides to make the semester fully online after the first four weeks, the question about refunds will only get tougher. It’ll be something that JMU will have to address, and hopefully they’ll be able to refund students a fair amount of their money back. If not, students may lose hope on what’s expected with refunds if COVID-19 affects the rest of their college years.
Kylee Toland is a junior media arts and design major. Contact Kylee at email@example.com