JMU: Refund/Lower Tuition for Online Classes! (James Madison University)
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Despite insisting on holding classes in-person for the Fall 2020 semester, JMU has reversed their decision just days after classes began on August 26th. After over 500 students were diagnosed with COVID-19, the university has "temporarily" moved classes online and required students to vacate their campus housing. This abrupt transition has created undue stress on the students and parents who moved in just 10-12 days prior expecting an in-person semester.
Failing to provide any real transparency in their decision-making, JMU has pulled a bait-and-switch on students and their families.
Knowing that it was a real possibility that on-campus learning and living may not be feasible - or safe - for students this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, school leaders should have done a better job preparing students and families for this scenario. JMU should have provided students and parents with detailed, transparent plans for each possible scenario related to how courses could be held, the availability of campus housing, and the availability of refunds.
Even AFTER announcing the transition to online learning and closure of campus housing, the university has neglected to provide any clarity on refunds (in most industries, refund policies and disclaimers are provided before consumers are charged). Tuition payments for the Fall 2020 semester were due back on August 14th.
JMU plans to publicly announce a decision by September 25th regarding a possible return to in-person learning in early October. This decision is scheduled 10 days AFTER their September 15th deadline for students to withdraw from classes and receive a refund.
Additionally, students should be provided refunds for JMU's expensive comprehensive auxiliary fee - which costs each student a whopping $5,080 per year! And because JMU bundles student fees into one, big student fee, it is not always clear to students and their families what this fee even pays for. Now, this information is more important than ever considering many auxiliary programs may no longer be available to the students paying for them - including collegiate athletics. Since over 40% of comprehensive fees funds athletics, each student is now paying more than $2,000 for athletics even though they may not get to attend a single football or basketball game.
We, the undersign, demand that the JMU administration and Board of Visitors take the following actions:
- Extend the deadline for students to withdraw with a full tuition refund to allow students to make a decision once a decision has been made about resuming in-person classes
- Guarantee prorated housing refunds to students being forced to vacate their dorms
- Lower tuition for online learning and provide students either prorated tuition refunds or semester-transferable tuition credit
- Issue refunds for the comprehensive student auxiliary fees to account for on-campus services and programs that are not unavailable to students
- Enact the Tuition Payer Bill of Rights - giving students and their families much-needed assurances that their financial investment into JMU is protected and they are guaranteed to get what they pay for.
Tuition Payer Bill of Rights
Every student in American should have the:
- Right to Advertised Benefits and Refunds
- Right to Opt Out of Non-Essential Services
- Right to No-Cost Alternatives to Textbooks
- Right to Financial Transparency
- Right to Know the Value of a Degree
- Right to Speak
To learn more about the Tuition Payer Bill of Rights, CLICK HERE.
9/3 UPDATE: According to a new communication to students, JMU has extended the deadline to withdraw (with a prorated refund) from 9/15 to 10/10! Students who vacate their on-campus housing will be provided a prorated refund for their housing and unused meal punches for four-weeks. Additionally, a $125 credit for their comprehensive fee will be credited to the student's account or applied to any outstanding balance at the end of the semester.
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