UofA Scams Students Thousands Amid Coronavirus Outbreak: Refund Our Money in Full

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Sterling Stokes
Sterling Stokes signed this petition

In light of the Coronavirus outbreak (‘COVID-19’), multiple universities across America have chosen to switch in-person courses online, or to cancel courses completely for the remainder of this spring semester. The University of Arizona (‘The University’) has chosen the former of these options, to switch to online courses for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester. Students are required to make decisions relevant to their housing, meal plans, and parking passes.

As a result of this recent change, on March 13, the University Housing & Residential Life sent an email to all students stating the following: “students should not return to campus, provided they have suitable alternative living arrangements.” This email was the catalyst for the University’s current situation, as many students are moving out of the campus dorms and will be doing so for the next month. Students could return their keys beginning on March 18, 2020, with all students being required to move out with a hard deadline of April 17, 2020 (or 48 hours within their return to campus after spring break, whichever comes first). Another email, sent on March 18, 2020, stated that students must abide by these guidelines to even be eligible for their two rent credit options. According to the University website, 8,000 students live in on-campus housing facilities (“more than 7,600 undergrads and 300 grads”), all of which who are being financially taken.

Our main concerns are as follows: housing rebates, meal plan rebates, and parking rebates.

Students who move out two months before the end of semester are receiving the same refund alternatives offered to students who are moving out one month before the end of the semester. The two options were offered to students, both of which financially benefit the University and not students:

1. *Option A: “A credit for the 2019-2020 academic year housing will be applied to your Bursar’s account in May”

2. *Option B: “A larger credit will be applied to your academic year 2020-21 housing”

In my personal case, if I choose Option A (I am not choosing to live in campus housing for the upcoming school year), I will only be refunded $885. I paid $4,600 in January 2020 and I moved out on March 19, 2020. Due to my calculations, I should be refunded $2,111.20.

Most students living on campus are also those who have chosen a meal plan by independent choice or are forced to have a meal plan as a requirement of living in an on-campus facility (e.g. The Honors Village requires students to have a meal plan). The two refund options being offered to Honors Village students (who are required to have a meal plan as a component of living in facility) both financially benefit the University and not students as well:

1. *Option A: “Students can take a 10% rebate for spring 2020 semester on any or all of their prepaid meal plans through the Student Unions”

2. *Option B: “Students can take a 20% credit from spring 2020 to be applied to fall 2020 on any or all of their prepaid meal plans”

In my personal case, if I choose Option A (I am not choosing to purchase a meal plan for the upcoming school year), I will only be refunded $155. I paid $1,550 in January 2020 and I moved out on March 19, 2020. Due to my calculations, I should be refunded $711.20.

Students who currently park in campus parking garages are offered two refund options as well, both of which financially benefit the University and not students:

1. *Option A: “Students can take a 10% rebate for spring 2020 parking permit”

2. *Option B: “Students can take a 20% credit from spring 2020 to be applied to fall 2020 parking permits”

In my personal case, if I choose Option A (I am not choosing to purchase a parking pass for the upcoming school year), I will only be refunded $61.80. I paid $618 in January 2020 and I moved out on March 19, 2020. Due to my calculations, I should be refunded $71.04.

In total, I should be given $2,893.44, which I paid in full over the course of this academic school year. I am only being offered a total of $1,101.80. Personally, the University owes me $1,791.64 to make me whole.

Independent of the fact that these options serve an injustice to some students, students are required to choose either option by March 20, 2020, or students will automatically be defaulted with Option A. Students who choose Option B will receive double the refund overall, but this refund benefits the University as the monies stay in the school and are not directly provided to students. This is of special concern for those who do not plan to remain in campus housing or purchase a meal plan for the upcoming academic year. Furthermore, some students who are currently seniors and are graduating in May 2020 do not receive a full refund from either Option A or B. These students will not need campus housing, meal plans, or parking.

As students who continually work to cover the costs of a college education, not only are the alternatives offered inegalitarian, but they are stealing monies from students who have already paid for services they will not be using for the remainder of this semester (e.g. living in campus housing, relying on the union and/or cafeteria for meals, parking in on-campus garages).

We demand the following:

1. Full refunds from students who are not pleased with Option A and/or Option B and wish to have their monies provided as a credit to their Bursar’s Account.

   a. Refunds should be calculated according to the time that a student will be on campus and when they move out. Refunds should not be calculated with a flat rate that is independent of move-out.

2. The opportunity for students to choose Option A or Option B if they are pleased with these two options.

3. An extended timeline for students to choose their option. The original notification for rebates was sent on March 15, 2020, which allowed five business days for students to make a decision. As many students are still moving, traveling, and adjusting to online courses, this does not allow enough time for students to discuss options with their family members.

The Coronavirus has contributed to global anxieties – for industries, for the economy, and for the education system. We understand that the University has experienced several unforeseeable economic circumstances, but this does not excuse the injustices that have been proposed to students attending the University. Students should not be robbed in funds that were already paid in full at the start of the spring semester. Students who do not wish to live in campus housing, park in garages, or purchase a meal plan for the 2020-2021 school year should not be disadvantaged to the University’s profit. It is unethical for the University to take financial advantage of students and their families in these trying times. It is our wish and our hope that the University will make the right decision. As spoken best by D.H. Lawrence, “ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.” The University must set an ethical example and demonstrate their true commitment to providing equal opportunities for all students at the University. This commitment should be independent of the COVID-19 outbreak and withstand any test of time and/or circumstance.

*All of the refund criteria are taken directly from the University website.