Students across the University community continue to discuss and debate how to properly address the financial aftermath of an early departure from campus due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The University has begun to refund students for the unexpected disruption of the semester.
Students on financial aid first received a $150 credit on March 17 to offset moving costs. On March 24, all students who vacated campus by March 19 were credited a prorated refund on housing costs and their residential college fee for nine-sixteenths of the original charge. A similar refund for student meal plans was provided on March 26.
In an email to parents on March 14, Dean of the College Jill Dolan addressed the University's decision not to refund tuition.
"We plan to ensure that online instruction continues through the end of the semester, so that students can complete their coursework and receive their course credit. In that case, tuition will not be refunded," she wrote.
Despite the University’s specific guidelines around student refunds, many prominent administration officials have made it clear that students who face significant hardship during this pandemic will be provided support.
This message was made most explicit during a meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) on March 30.
“As you heard from the Provost, for those students on financial aid who did leave, because we both understood that they would continue to have needs associated with living and dining, the refunds were then issued for those students. In addition, we made available to students, and continue to make available to students, hardship funds,” said Vice President for Campus Life W. Rochelle Calhoun at the meeting.
The University’s approach to settling the financial matters arising from students’ unexpected departures earlier this month has become a popular topic of conversation amongst students. Many students were impressed with the efficiency of the University’s financial response.
Nicole Martin ’23 detailed her response to the University’s decision in a statement to The Daily Princetonian.
"My family and I were surprised but so appreciative of Princeton’s speed in deciding to refund a portion of the spring room and board and providing move-out fees,” she wrote. “There are students from all different backgrounds with unique needs, and it is important that the university offer support whether it be financial, social, or mental as we navigate these difficult times.”
Ashley Chung ’23 echoed Martin’s sentiments about the University’s timely action.
“I’m glad that the University figured out room and board refund amounts and were able to get it to us quickly. For students on financial aid, getting that amount will help with the financial burden now placed on the students’ families to provide for them, which it was originally covered by aid at school,” she wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’
On tuition, however, Chung thought that more could be done.
"In terms of tuition, I feel like there should be a partial refund at the very least. I know that professors have been doing their best to adjust their courses but some courses just aren’t as transferable to Zoom and really rely on in-person instruction for students to understand the material and succeed," she wrote.
Chung is a member of the ‘Prince’ design staff.
University Deputy Spokesperson Mike Hotchkiss advised students facing financial struggles to reach out to the University for additional support.
“If students leaving campus face financial hardships that aren’t compensated by the room and board refund, they can apply to the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, which is able to provide limited assistance to high financial need students who are suffering severe hardships,“ he said.