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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Student petition calls for refunds

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PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

St. Joe’s will offer refunds to qualifying students for room and board and select fees for the spring 2020 semester, according to an announcement sent to the university on March 19 from Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., provost and vice president of Student Affairs. 

There are no plans to refund tuition as the university continues to deliver all instruction, advising and academic services virtually, according to Gail Benner, director of PR and Media at St. Joe’s

“This is more complex than it may appear due to federal financial aid rules, the variety of meal plans offered, etc.,” Benner wrote in an email to The Hawk. “The Department of Education is issuing guidance, which we need to review and also make sure is complete and won’t change.”

Devon Gurule ’20 started a change.org petition to refund St. Joe’s students for their spring 2020 tuition on March 17 because she wants to ensure that students’ voices are being heard as St. Joe’s decides how to reallocate student tuition.

Gurule is asking for refunds for students’ room and board, meal plans, classroom fees, as well as the unused student activities fee.

“I was aiming for a refund on anything that wasn’t being utilized by the school,” Gurule said. “A partial reimbursement on things like room and board/meal plans for students who have them, and classroom fees like art fees, lab fees, etc., along with the student activities fee that’s going to waste anyway since we were originally not going to have a Spring Concert.”

Although Gurule acknowledges that a reimbursement for the entire semester isn’t feasible, she thinks students are “being robbed” by paying fees in full for resources they can no longer access.  

“If classes can’t be in person, it’s just a waste of our money,” Gurule said. “It doesn’t make sense that we would have to pay so much to get so little. A Zoom lecture from a teacher who might not even know how to work it isn’t worth paying up to $25,000 a semester. I understand that the semester is coming to a close soon, but I think it would help to at least get some of that back.”

As part of reimbursement, Gurule thinks any individual class fees for supplies should be reimbursed, “no questions asked.” Gurule said if paid resources for class supplies can’t be used, then the money that students paid for them needs to be returned.

“The structure of all students’ lives have been changed so drastically all at once,” Gurule said. “The school needs to understand that not all students can afford [those fees] now. It’s heartbreaking all around.”

Hayley Burns ’20, who signed the petition, said since undergraduate students have also paid fees for on-campus services, a consideration of even a minimal reimbursement is a justifiable request. 

“I don’t think it hurts to present the university with the idea of some kind of financial reimbursement for both the significant changes in the academic environment and those typical amenities we are now unable to access,” Burns said. “Considering the flat-out difference in price between in-person and online courses, the university should consider prorating tuition in some manner to address these disparities.”

Gurule said the announcement of a virtual commencement was the tipping point for her petition. Once it was announced, Gurule reshared her petition and the number of signatures nearly doubled from voting seniors. At the time of publication, Gurule’s petition has 736 supporters.

“Now that the school has made this decision without even considering the students’ voices, according to the student senate’s recent Instagram post, I have personally received a lot more support in trying to fight for a change and get our voices heard with this petition,” Gurule said. “I sincerely hope that our voices will weigh heavily on their decision.”

Benner said decisions about this issue will be made and communicated to impacted students by mid-April. 

“As part of the major federal legislation being debated now, there may be provisions pertaining to higher education, students and/or institutions,” Benner said. “We need to weigh and consider all of this carefully.”.

Gurule said her main priority is that students’ voices and concerns are heard by administration during their decision making process.

“I think getting a big following can help the school realize that this is a matter that everybody is thinking about,” Gurule said. “I don’t want this to go unnoticed because it is unfair to not even think about reimbursing tuitions.”

 

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