Letter: Students and parents on the hook if campuses close

Graphic by Lori Deaton

My kid is in her second year at Western Carolina University. When the COVID-19 crisis struck, they sent the kids home from dorms and credited the balance of the days left for housing and meal plans. A short time later, WCU sent out an email saying if the pandemic flared up again in the fall that no student would be receiving any money back for lost housing or meal plans or other fees if they had to send students home again.

Now, every day we hear of more and more cases at universities with student athletes, and yet many of the colleges still contend they may have sports activities as well as normal college life activities with CDC guidelines in place. However, she has already received her class schedule noting that all of her classes are online (none of the same classes would have been online last year before the pandemic). As we watch the numbers continue to grow, one would think that bringing in thousands of kids to one place from all over the country (and possibly world) to put them in dorms would be the last move you would make to control the spread of the virus, as well as prevent a possible closing of the dorms once again. Gov. Cooper has curbed all gatherings of churches, gyms, bars, etc., but allowing these students in dorms and common areas is totally fine?

I predict that within the first month, cases will “spike” at these universities, and they will be forced to again send students home. My belief is that they are already preparing to do this by putting the coursework online in the beginning. However, this time, the students are on the hook for thousands of dollars (many of which are student loans) without housing or meal plans reimbursed. This does not even touch the amount of leases the students who live off campus in apartments will be forced to pay without actually attending the university. These leases are nonrefundable as well. All of this debt to thousands of students could be avoided by heeding their own words and delaying the move into the campus until the pandemic is controlled.

I would be curious to know why no news agency is confronting this major financial issue to parents of students during a pandemic when we are all touched financially by this problem and the very state we live in is helping them pull this off.

— Mark Wallen

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Western Carolina University with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Brian Mullen of the University Communications and Marketing Department: “Western Carolina University is working diligently to fulfill its academic and regional mission and protect the well-being of its campus community while being responsive to pandemic directives.

“The University of North Carolina system issued guidance to all its institutions about the possibility that housing and dining refunds may not be available if COVID-19 creates a situation where students must leave campus and return to online learning.

“Some have interpreted this as a definitive decision not to issue refunds, but that is not accurate. If UNC system institutions are able to offer financial relief to students — in the form of refunds or other measures — WCU would certainly prefer to do so. However, the current uncertain economic environment and health outlook precludes WCU from making any immediate decisions or commitments on the issue of refunds, should that need arise.

“Fall semester updates at info.wcu.edu/fall2020.”


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One thought on “Letter: Students and parents on the hook if campuses close

  1. Teresa Sams

    I think the students should get refunds if they can’t go to classes safe they should have never let the students start classes that’s the governors decision not the students give them there money back why should it be there loss at this time

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