Arizona State University campus, one of the schools facing a lawsuit from Arizona’s board of regents. (David Pinter/Courtesy)
With the mass exodus of students from university and college campuses across the United States due to the rapid spread of Coronavirus, the financial future for these institutions remains unknown. As classes and exams shift to an online format, students are demanding refunds on room, board, tuition and other fees.
Providing refunds is complicated, especially for those institutions who are financially incapable of affording it and would likely stress their budgets. To calculate the economic impact, many factors need to be taken into consideration, such as how long the pandemic will last and how it will affect fall enrollment.
Some schools have objected to any forms of credit or compensation. Arizona’s board of regents was sued to force public universities Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona and Arizona State University to pay back fees to its students.
While approaches to reimbursements have varied, some colleges have proposed a refund for all room and board costs.
“I lived in a sorority house and was paying about $4000 a quarter,” said Sabrina Murphy, a student at University of California, Santa Barbara. “I’am not able to live there this quarter but I do not have to pay rent since all of my fees have been waived.”
Although some students are exempt from paying room and board fees, others are unclear of what policies their colleges and universities will adopt.
“I live in an on campus apartment and pay around $1200 a month,” said Matthew Turi, a sophomore at San Diego State University. “We got booted a while ago and they said we weren’t going to have to pay rent. They keep billing us but I’m just not paying it.”
With the reimbursement for room and board up for debate for each individual college and university, institutions have decided to not include tuition fees. Classes have been transitioned to online, which caused a substantial amount of money to be spent in order to support large masses of students digitally.
“I’am taking five classes and my tuition for this semester is around $7000,” said Grace Tillotson, a student at Cal State University San Marcos. “All of my classes are online now and my university told me they are trying to figure out if they are able to do any refunds. We still have not heard anything from the school though.”
In addition to paying for services that they did not receive, students now worry how online education will affect their learning abilities.
“I was not planning on taking online classes, but now I am currently in four,” said student Brandon Roelofs. “Online classes are nice because they give me more free time but I am not learning as well. I am in my house, I get distracted easily and I am able to do whatever I want rather than being forced to listen in class.”
College is expensive and many families struggle to be able to send their children to school. With the high cost of education and today’s economic uncertainty, college affordability is more concerning then ever.