Refunds for College Students Under Way
Apr 10, 2020 12:36PM
By David Dykes
By Amanda Capps
As remote instruction continues from home offices and makeshift classrooms across the state, college students may soon receive refunds or credits for fees directly related to campus life.
Acting in accordance with recommendations from the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE), a number of schools have put the wheels in motion for remitting fees, and Clemson University students should see credits to their accounts by today, April 10.
Clemson President Jim Clements said the university’s board of trustees voted unanimously to allow the administration to provide prorated refunds for a range of fees including housing, dining, and parking.
According to his message shared on social media, the total amount for Clemson will be more than $15 million. Refunds will be based on the unused share of fees dating from March 23, the first day of classes following spring break.
Clemson officials said no refunds will be provided for academic fees as undergraduate, graduate and Bridge courses held on the main campus and at university facilities across the state were readily and without interruption moved to an online platform, ensuring students were able to continue their academic progress and proceed toward graduation.
At the University of South Carolina in Columbia, the prorate date is March 16. Peggy Binette, senior associate director of integrated communications, said students should see their accounts credited by April 22.
Across the state, spokespersons for various institutions are quoting dates that extend through the end of the month and cautioning that reimbursements will not apply to students whose circumstances warranted their continuing to reside in dorms or residence halls. Similarly, Greek organizations will be working out terms for fees students paid in advance.
A CHE statement said its guidelines apply only to students who remain enrolled for the entire semester. However, many schools are now offering alternative grading policies in light of sudden and massive overhauls in the world of academia since the onset of the crisis. A credit/no credit or pass/fail option can be an alternative to a letter grade. Clemson, among others, also has extended the date to withdraw from spring courses.
The CHE acknowledged that the U.S. Dept. of Education (ED) had previously released guidelines for “interruptions of study” related to disaster or a pandemic influenza outbreak, but those guidelines did not cover subsequent effects on housing.
In 2018, the ED promoted the practice of refunding all charges or providing a credit to be used in the future for any student who withdrew under those conditions. Because of the remote instruction being carried out through Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other platforms, CHE President and Executive Officer Rusty Monhollon’s statement said tuition and related academic fees did not have to be refunded.
Peyton Crowder, who serves as president of USC’s Patterson Hall, said USC students, like their Clemson counterparts, started a petition and garnered thousands of signatures urging the board to take action. Still, he says some are not pleased about the decision to issue credits toward future services.
“In order to have that money in our personal checking accounts, we’ll have to wait until September, which is not ideal,” he said.
Crowder, a criminology major, added that USC students don’t know when they can return to campus to retrieve their belongings. He said working online has definitely been more challenging, but he’s determined not to let it change his graduation plans for 2023.
At Clemson, university officials said they don’t anticipate a move-out process beginning any earlier than Friday, May 1.
College of Charleston (CofC) student Heather Tyler didn’t live on campus or partake in the school’s meal plan, but she too felt the economic impact of the crisis. Losing her part-time job to the shut-down meant giving up her off-campus housing and moving back with her parents. Majoring in anthropology, with a minor in Japanese studies, she said logistical adjustments, coupled with academic format changes, have been daunting.
“While I’m proud of the College of Charleston for their fast work at handling the situation, I feel it is slightly impractical,” she said, noting that “e-learning” has been extended through the summer.
Dr. Andrew Hsu, president of CofC, in a weekly update to the campus community, quoted T.S. Eliot, saying, “April is the cruelest month.”
Hsu noted that although the campus is silent, many are to be commended for the work they are doing behind the scenes.
Other hopeful signs from schools around the state include a virtual visit to the Bob Jones University campus by over 150 potential students and a tentatively rescheduled graduation (August 7 and 8) for USC.
Additionally, several schools, including USC, have set up special COVID-19 student emergency funds to assist with immediate needs such as rent.
For the latest updates on each school, contact the institution directly or visit the CHE’s website: https://www.che.sc.gov/HOME/InstitutionUpdates.aspx