In light of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, University of Connecticut President Thomas Katsouleas announced Wednesday night that all classes will be moving online until at least April 6.
This may feel like a drastic measure, but it is not without precedent. Classes at universities like Yale University, Southern Connecticut State University and Sacred Heart University have also moved online for part or all of the semester. At some schools, students have also been asked to leave their dorms.
As spring break approaches, we must begin to think about managing this transition in the most equitable way possible. We are confident the UConn administration has been working around the clock to assess all possibilities.
But we would like to shine a light on one aspect of the situation: refunds for student fees.
At the beginning of every semester, we are charged for our dorms, our meal plans, our gym access, our buses and more. This semester, it is looking ever more likely that we will not receive all of the services we paid for. If the tenuous two week online class period holds, we’ll be losing roughly 12.5% of the semester. That’s about $375 of meal plan fees, anywhere from $450 to $900 in housing costs and a little over $100 in other fees (including gym access, transportation and health services).
This is the best case scenario. But if the rest of our semester is moved online — which is a significant possibility based on the actions of peer institutions — the costs will be much larger.
Half of the semester equals about $1,500 per student worth of meal plan fees. It’s anywhere from $1,800 to $3,500 in housing costs. It’s $125 in recreation center fees. $145 from student health services. $40 for transportation. It’s an incomputable amount of learning capacity lost from the rapid transition to online classes.
A typical on-campus student could be out several thousand dollars, with little to show for it.
The university has taken steps to address some of these issues — as per ResLife, housing is being offered until April 6 for students who have extenuating circumstances — and we commend them for it. But we have heard nothing concrete about refunding students who will not remain on campus when classes move online or don’t meet the standard of “extenuating circumstances.” We also haven’t heard anything about compensating students for the diminished learning experience they will receive through online-only instruction.
UConn should also ensure that workers — from the cooks to the bus drivers — can live stable lives during this unexpected period of unemployment.
It’s as simple as this: We paid for services which we will now not receive. UConn should refund us.