College students ask for partial tuition refunds after coronavirus moves classes online

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some college students say they aren't getting their money's worth with online classes.

The students all agree with the decision to learn from home, knowing in-person classes cannot happen with a stay-at-home order in effect. However, they are raising questions about their tuition. Are online classes just as good as in-person?

"This isn't what students paid for this isn't what we agreed to," said John Donners, a business management student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

He is leading a movement, gathering thousands of signatures on an online petition; he said he has 7,929 and counting. Students are asking for a partial refund on tuition now that classes are online.

"There's a substantial difference between online and in-person and education," Donners said. "It's not only just about sitting physically in that classroom, there's an element to the class that you just can't just walk up to your teacher, you can't do your group projects as effectively. Many students just can't learn as effectively. And, and that's only talking about the most basic of courses."

Students with music or lab classes could be even more impacted.

UIC said it has not considered a partial refund on tuition and UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said in part in a statement, "Following the governor's instructions to continue paying all state employees, we have protected the income of all students who worked on an hourly basis in facilities...We take our commitment to student success and well-being seriously and that commitment guides our decisions as we continue to navigate this difficult situation."

UIC also noted it held a Virtual Town Hall for students to discuss concerns, which Donners recorded. The chancellor said UIC would partially refund fees for services like recreation, student centers, programming and athletics.

Students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign started a similar tuition petition.

"We have every confidence that the courses we offer can achieve the desired student learning outcomes," the university said in a statement.

"There is a large sentiment among students across the nation that the quality of education for the last third of the year is going down," said Julia Attie, a student at University of Chicago, who is leading a demand for tuition reduction. She said her petition has more than 1,500 signatures. Attie is concerned about overall costs for students during the COVID-19 pandemic and the quality of online classes.

"I am a visual arts major. I've lost access to the arts buildings. I am in the studio track and I can't go to my studio. I can't use the printing services and things like that," she said.

The University of Chicago told the I-Team they are not making tuition reimbursements because "instructors are adapting courses to a remote learning environment to ensure that students continue to receive a rigorous transformative education."

The I-Team reached out to other colleges as well. Illinois State University said it's "not planning to give partial tuition refunds". Neither is DePaul University, Columbia College, Loyola University or Parkland College, which is based in Champaign. All of schools in this report are issuing partial refunds for housing and dining.

Sarah Langford from On the Quad college consulting in Chicago, said online learning isn't for everyone and the debate between online and in-person classes could also be on the minds of upcoming freshman who may miss out on the campus experience if courses continue online in the fall.

"But it is going to be strange and they need to be prepared for that. And the other question is the finances of it. Are you willing to pay for that experience?" asked Langford.

Langford said incoming students with concerns could wait a year, taking what's known as a gap year and keeping their current acceptance to their school.

Donners said he and thousands of others on this petition are vowing to continue their battle for a partial tuition refund.

"For us it's about fairness, and it's about making sure that we get what we pay for. So, we're not asking for a full tuition refund, we're just asking for the price difference between those two very vastly different experiences," he said.

Universities are hurting as well. According to one published report, the state's 12 public universities estimate suffering an initial loss of $224 million.

Below is list of area Universities and what they are doing about tuition and other housing refunds.

COLUMBIA COLLEGE

The college is not issuing a reimbursements on tuition. The semester begins April 6.

PARKLAND COLLEGE
We understand that this shift in the middle of the semester is an adjustment, but at this time Parkland College is striving for students to finish strong and remain whole in achieving their academic intent. Our institution is not offering refunds because we intend to support the success of all students in their courses this semester. Parkland College is well-equipped with the online learning tools and engaged faculty to see the semester to completion. As a community college, our institution does not have student housing and students do not incur fees for housing, health insurance, or a medical center. Students and community members can also reach out to the college via our call center at 217/351-2200.

DEPAUL UNIVERISTY

HOUSING and MEAL PLAN REFUNDS (March 24, 2020, message)

Students not living on campus for Spring Quarter will be fully refunded for all housing, meal plan (including all current unused Flex dollars), and Medcare charges provided they completed their move and check-out process by March 22. This includes University Center residents. Credits for all three of the aforementioned charges will be applied directly to your student account. Please allow at least 3 weeks into the spring quarter for those credits to appear on your account. If you have not yet paid for your spring room and board, you do not need to do so (unless you have been approved to stay on campus).

TUITION for Spring Quarter (March 20, 2020, message)
Tuition for Spring Quarter remains the same. DePaul University is committed to providing its students an excellent education. The remote delivery of courses offers students the same value as in-person courses, and many academic and other university support services will be available to students throughout the Spring Quarter.

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY

Tuition at Loyola University of Chicago not only provides students with an excellent education, it also includes access to top faculty and many resources and support services. We remain steadfast in our commitment to education ensuring that the same quality is available in an online teaching environment as it is on campus.

With nearly two decades of online course offerings, faculty at Loyola have extensive academic experience, familiarity with online teaching, and with delivering high quality instruction via online platforms to our students. In fact, U.S. News and World Report recently recognized Loyola's online bachelor's degree program as one of the top ten in the country. https://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/bachelors/rankings

Despite the societal disruption caused by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the University remains firmly committed to our students accomplishing the semester successfully and with all of the credits that they have paid for as they pursue the degrees they are working diligently to complete. Additional student engagement measures have been implemented including extra support services.

We empathize with students and educators across the globe as we have all had to navigate these unchartered waters. Loyola itself has taken many factors under consideration and refunded students' housing and meal plan costs, as well as student activity fees, on a pro-rated basis.

Unlike other institutions on quarter-term systems, Loyola runs on a semester-term and our institution was already more than halfway through the semester with our students past their mid-term exams when sheltering in place measures were enacted.

No one anticipated that Spring 2020 semester would encounter a pandemic of this magnitude. However, Loyola has done everything in its ability to ensure for academic continuity so that our students' educational goals would not be disrupted.

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS - CHICAGO

From the beginning of this global health crisis we have tried to address the needs of our students as we navigate an unprecedented situation. These are challenging times and we recognize that the disruption to daily routines and university life has impacted each of you significantly.

Faculty and staff have worked diligently to move classes online and minimize the disruption to your education. Students will receive earned credit for completed coursework at the end of this semester. UIC has also purchased and provided laptops and WiFi hotspots to students in need of technology resources to continue their studies remotely. We continue to pay all of our employees, including student employees. The University remains open although most functions have migrated to virtual service delivery, allowing faculty and staff to work from home to comply with Governor Pritzker's Stay-at-Home order.

We understand that these changes have impacted you financially and many of you have asked about the possibility of UIC providing reimbursement for tuition and student fees. After careful consideration, we will provide an adjustment to your service fee, but we are not able to provide a tuition adjustment, provided that instruction continues and all spring semester courses will be completed. This decision is consistent across the three universities in the University of Illinois System.

In recognition of the suspension of a number of student services due to COVID-19 restrictions and despite the fact that UIC will continue to employ the students that provide the majority of these services, each student will see an adjustment to the amount of the Service fee paid as follows:

All UIC students that paid the full fee amount of $350 (Range I or II) will receive an adjustment and will be credited with $153.

Students that paid the $233 (Range III or IV) fee will receive an adjustment and will be credited with $102.

Any student with a balance owed to the University will have the credit applied to that balance.
Those students who have paid in full will receive a direct deposit transfer to the account on record. If you have not already signed up for direct deposit we encourage you to do so as soon as possible (about 92% of all UI students are enrolled in direct deposit.)
Additionally, students living in residence halls who chose to move out will receive a prorated refund for their room and meal plan for the remainder of the semester with no financial penalties.

Due to debt service obligations and other fixed costs, fees that support ongoing facility maintenance or finance capital infrastructure costs, cannot be adjusted. This would also apply to any fees for which services continue to be provided, including library and technology access, mental health counseling and advising fees.

Many students have also asked about costs paid for mandatory CTA passes. UIC has already paid the CTA for these passes and as of today, CTA has not responded positively to UIC's request for a refund. If the situation changes and CTA agrees to a refund, we will immediately pass this back to the students.

We will keep you informed of any additional financial changes, especially in anticipation of the implementation of the federal CARES Act, as soon as new information becomes available.

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO

The University recognizes the difficult and unforeseen challenges that COVID-19 has brought about for many of our students and their families. We also recognize that Spring Quarter will be different than anyone anticipated, but these changes are necessary to safeguard members of our community.

On tuition, we take into account that the cost is a reflection of progress toward a degree. UChicago instructors are adapting courses to a remote learning environment to ensure that students continue to receive a rigorous, transformative education. Classes taken during the Spring Quarter courses will count fully toward completion of all degree programs, and as such they will continue to have regular tuition rates. Students may choose to exercise their option to take a leave of absence during Spring Quarter.

The University has taken comprehensive steps to ensure that all undergraduates who qualify for need-based financial aid continue to receive aid that meets their full need. The University has waived the student services fee for students living away from Chicago during Spring Quarter, and reduced it to $125 for all students who qualify for assessment of the fee. Student services will continue to be provided during Spring Quarter, including online services. We understand that some families will experience unforeseen difficulties during this crisis, and additional assistance is available for students who encounter unexpected expenses. For more information on our steps to ensure full financial aid during this period of remote learning, click here.

More on financial aid
The University of Chicago is one of the few universities that provides truly comprehensive financial support. UChicago admits U.S. students without regard to their financial need, meets the full financial need of all students who are admitted, and does not expect students to take out any loans. We have eliminated student loans from need-based financial aid packages, which has dramatically reduced student debt upon graduation.

As of 2018, UChicago guarantees free tuition for families with incomes under $125,000 per year (with typical assets). Families earning less than $60,000 (with typical assets) have full tuition, fees, room and board covered by financial aid. The average financial aid award for first-year students is more than $50,000. The UChicago Empower initiative, announced in 2018, made standardized testing optional and expanded financial aid, contributing to enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds.

Compared with major four-year universities in Illinois and nationwide, UChicago graduates have among the lowest levels of student debt and exceptional career outcomes, including placement with substantive job opportunities and top graduate programs.

Doctoral education
Note that the University's new doctoral funding model, announced last fall, fully funds eligible students for the duration of their programs."


ILLINOIS STATE UNIVERSITY

Housing/dining

Thank you for your patience as the University has worked to determine the process of prorating student accounts for housing and meal plan charges, including all unused flex dollars. As always, our first priority is the overall wellness of our Redbird family, and we sincerely hope that this communication finds you in good health. Please review the information below regarding the proration process.

Proration period: Regardless of whether you collected your belongings, the University will prorate housing and meal plan charges, including all unused flex dollars, from March 15 - May 9, 2020. March 15 marks the conclusion of the original spring break period. Residence halls, university apartments, and dining centers were scheduled to reopen on this date.

Credit to your student account: The University will credit your student account prior to April 15, 2020 for the period of March 15 - May 9. Fall 2019 rollover flex dollars will be credited by the end of the spring term. The credit will be applied directly to your student account. If you have a remaining balance on your student account at the time of the credit, the prorated amount will automatically be applied to that balance. If your credit exceeds your remaining balance, the difference will be refunded to you.

Please note: If your housing and meal plan charges were waived (e.g., Resident Assistant, Community Assistant, full-scholarship student-athlete, etc.), or you have been approved to remain on campus, you will not receive a credit to your account. Contact University Housing Services at 309-438-8611 or Intercollegiate Athletics at 309-438-1526 with questions.

Refund processing: If you have a credit balance after the adjustments are made to your account, it will be automatically refunded to you. If you have a valid eRefund account (direct deposit) setup at the time your refund is processed, you will receive an automated email informing you of your direct deposit. If you do not have a valid eRefund account, you will receive an email from Student Accounts with instructions on how to have your refund check mailed to you.

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a significant financial impact on you and your family and we will continue to work to lessen any financial burden. As this international crisis continues to evolve, we thank you for your patience and understanding. Please visit IllinoisState.edu/Coronavirus for the most up-to-date information about Illinois State's response to COVID-19. In particular, please review Housing and Dining FAQ's for questions about this process.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Housing or Dining using the contact information below from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.

Off-campus meal plans

Thank you for your patience as the University has worked to determine the process of prorating student accounts for off-campus meal plan charges including all unused flex dollars. As always, our first priority is the overall wellness of our Redbird family, and we sincerely hope that this communication finds you in good health. Please review the information below regarding the proration process.

Cancel your off-campus meal plan: If you are a student who no longer wishes to keep their off-campus meal plan, go to the Housing & Dining portal to cancel your Spring 2020 meal plan between April 1 - April 7.

Credit to your student account: If you cancel by April 7, the University will credit your student account prior to April 24, 2020 for the period of March 15 - May 9. Fall 2019 rollover flex dollars will be credited by the end of the spring term. The credit will be applied directly to your student account. If you have a remaining balance on your student account at the time of the credit, the prorated amount will automatically be applied to that balance. If your credit exceeds your remaining balance, the difference will be refunded to you.
If you cancel after April 7, the credit will be applied to your student account at the end of the spring term.

Refund processing: If you have a credit balance after the adjustments are made to your account, it will be automatically refunded to you. If you have a valid eRefund account (direct deposit) setup at the time your refund is processed, you will receive an automated email informing you of your direct deposit. If you do not have a valid eRefund account, you will receive an email from Student Accounts with instructions on how to have your refund check mailed to you.

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic may have a significant financial impact on you and your family, and we will continue to work to lessen any financial burden. As this international crisis continues to evolve, we thank you for your patience and understanding. Please visit IllinoisState.edu/Coronavirus for the most up-to-date information about Illinois State's response to COVID-19. In particular, please review the Dining FAQ's for questions about this process.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Dining at EMDH@IllinoisState.edu or 309-438-8351 from 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.
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