Do students get refunds during college coronavirus shutdowns? Policies differ

Local universities are refunding certain fees to students this spring, but the policies differ, and while some families already have refunds in their pockets, others are just learning how it will work.

Colleges and universities generally are not offering refunds of tuition payments or other educational fees, because classes have continued in new online formats, with professors and students heading into the final weeks of the semester now.

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But those students living on campus were paying $4,000 to $7,000 this semester for room and board. Universities canceled in-person classes as of March 11, some closing dorms and dining halls almost immediately, and others giving students more time to move out.

Wright State, Ohio State, Miami and the University of Dayton all said room and board is being refunded or credited to families, based on how much of the semester was left. Most universities had just passed the midpoint of the semester when in-person classes ended, although Miami had not yet reached the midpoint.

Ohio State, which was on spring break the week of March 11, is refunding fees from March 16 through the end of the semester. OSU listed the exact amount of housing, dining, recreational and “space reservation” fee refunds on each student’s “statement of account” April 3.

Students with direct deposit set up have already received their refunds, while others are getting checks in the mail, according to university officials.

Wright State University announced its refund plan Thursday.

WSU suspended in-person classes on March 11, but students will receive housing refunds from the March 23 move-out deadline to April 30, according to a university announcement. Residential meal plan refunds cover those same dates, while commuter meal plans will roll over to 2021 — as will dining dollars and Raider Cash. Those graduating or leaving the university can request a refund instead of a roll-over.

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Students who paid for parking passes will get credits (returning students) or refunds (departing students) for the period of March 16 to April 30. The university said refunds will be completed by the end of April.

At all of these schools, if room and board fees were covered by scholarships or grants, the fees are not refundable to the student.

Rather than paying direct refunds like Ohio State, the University of Dayton in most cases is putting credits on students’ accounts, to be applied toward next school year. That will apply for unused housing days, but UD officials said Thursday they have not finalized what the first credited day will be. UD told students on March 10 that they were to leave university housing by 6 p.m. March 11.

If UD students were in university housing this year, but will live off-campus next year, their housing credit will be applied to next fall’s tuition fee. Current meal plan balances will roll over in full for next fall, according to UD officials.

Seniors graduating in May will have credits applied to any outstanding balance owed first, then will receive refunds after graduation.

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“We know many of our students and families make sacrifices to pursue a University of Dayton education,” said William M. Fischer, UD’s vice president for student development. “By providing credits for housing and meals, we hope to ease some of the financial stress caused by this pandemic.”

UD spokeswoman Meagan Pant said the credits have not yet been processed, but will appear on student accounts when the next billing cycle occurs in May.

Thousands of local students who attend Sinclair Community College are unaffected by the refund issue, as Sinclair, like most community colleges, does not have student housing or meal plans.

Miami University said it is offering pro-rated refunds or credits of several student fees in addition to room and board. University spokeswoman Carole Johnson said housing refunds will be pro-rated from a March 21 start date, calling that the date Miami said the residence halls were officially closed.

As with all schools, Miami students who received a waiver to remain are not eligible for the housing refund.

“You do not need to apply for refunds or credits,” Senior Vice President David Creamer wrote in a letter to students. “If you have an outstanding balance, you will receive a credit, unless there is a financial aid adjustment. If there is no outstanding balance, you will receive a refund. All credits will be posted to your university bursar account on a rolling basis beginning April 8.”

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University officials said Miami students would receive a credit for the Armstrong Student Center fee, facility fee, transit fee and a portion of the basic general fee. Students who bought spring semester parking permits will get a partial credit, and unused “dining dollars” will roll forward to next semester.

The university said any refunds would be forwarded to students’ RedHawk accounts by May 1.

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