NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – COVID-19 has forced many college students to spend the rest of the semester at home.
Several public and private institutions in Texas are issuing prorated refunds for room and board expenses.
But most students will still be expected to pay spring tuition at full price.
This is not the freshman year Chase Brock had envisioned for himself.
The 18-year-old freshman never returned to Texas A&M Corpus Christi after spring break due to the pandemic.
His mother, Amanda Brock, received a prorated refund for Chase’s meal plan and credits for his housing expenses that can be applied to next semester. Brock was also able to break her son’s lease.
But Brock said what she really wants is a partial reimbursement for tuition.
“I’m super disappointed in the quality of instruction, especially for a major university system,” said Brock, who lives in Dallas.
Campuses nationwide have shifted to distance learning due to COVID-19.
But Brock, a single mom and nurse at Parkland, said many courses are not conducive to online classes. She argued her son is basically teaching himself microbiology.
It’s a notion she said she never considered when she cashed out her retirement fund to help pay for college.
“It’s a complete waste of money, for me and for him, it’s a complete loss,” Brock said.
By and large, institutions are not issuing tuition refunds for spring semester.
Texas Commissioner of Higher Education Harrison Keller said schools are trying to keep learning on track by providing online instruction.
“The most important thing for students is to stay on track and keep making progress,” Keller said.
This comes as administrators face dashed revenues from formerly reliable sources such as athletics and university events. Keller said projected enrollment is also down.
Baylor University just announced it could potentially cut up to $80 million from its budget. <>
“We have not seen a disruption like this in American higher education since the end of the second World War,” Keller said.
Many Texas colleges and universities are offering refunds or credits for unused room and board expenses. The University of North Texas stated it would issue prorated housing refunds and meal credits to students who left campus.
The University of Texas at Arlington is offering prorated refunds for housing and parking fees, as well as credits for meal plans.
Meal and housing refunds will be processed for students at the University of Texas at Dallas, as well.
A spokeswoman for Texas Christian University said all unused housing and dining fees for the spring 2020 semester were returned to students through account credits or refunds for seniors.
Baylor University announced it will provide prorated credits for housing, meal plans and parking permits and will pay students receiving federal work-study.
Texas A&M outlined prorated credits and refunding options for students on its website.
The University of Texas at Austin states it will give students refunds for room and board, meal plans, parking and recreational sports.
The Dallas Business Journal estimates North Texas colleges could pay $120 million in room and board refunds.
But Brock wonders if students and parents are owed more in reimbursements.
“I can’t afford to lose the money,” Brock said. “I don’t have $3,000 to lose.”
Dr. Clarenda Phillips, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi issued the following statement:
“Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is committed to providing a quality education while completing the spring 2020 semester online. The university provides resources and ongoing support to faculty and students to ensure a successful finish. In addition to pedagogical experts in each department, the university employs several instructional designers that are assisting faculty with their online courses. We encourage students to communicate directly with their faculty, department chairs, or deans about any learning concerns that they may have.”
Students should directly contact their institutions for more information on how to obtain prorated refunds.
But students who live in off-campus housing may not always be eligible for such reimbursements. Tenants renting privately-owned apartments or homes could be held to their lease agreements.
For example, American Campus Communities is a company that contracts with universities to provide student housing.
Amanda Brock was able to end her son’s lease at an on-campus facility, but the company is not extending the same option to off-campus residents.
“We are not offering lease terminations and refunds at private off-campus apartment communities,” the company wrote on its website. “As previously stated, we will be temporarily waiving all late fees and financial-related eviction proceedings and we will work with residents and families who endure financial hardship on a case by case basis.”