The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) passed a resolution Jan. 9 calling for the university to offer prorated refunds for untouched housing and dining costs.
GUSA Senate Vice Speaker Rowlie Flores (COL ’22) drafted the resolution in response to the university’s decision to begin the spring semester virtually and allow students to decide their move-in date as a result of a surge in cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19. Students may return to campus between Jan. 11 and the start of in-person classes Jan. 31. The resolution demands that the university refund students for the costs of residential living and meal plans for each calendar day they are not using these university services.
If students elect to return to campus later in the month, they should not be forced to pay for services they are not using, according to GUSA Senate Speaker Leo Rassieur (COL ’22).
“You have plenty of people who are making this very difficult decision not to come back prior to January 31 who are not therefore making use of dining facilities, or any study spaces or living spaces or their dorms, or really anything that Georgetown has to offer that they’re paying tuition for,” Rassieur said in an interview with The Hoya.
The resolution prioritizes student safety and wellbeing amid challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Rassieur.
“A lot of folks in GUSA and the senate just believe that for those students who elected not to return prior to January 31, they deserve refunds for the experiences they’re not having,” Rassieur said. “There are many students who don’t feel safe coming back prior to January 31.”
Providing prorated refunds is important because students who are not on financial aid are paying for these costs whether they are on campus or not, according to Flores.
“Half of the student body is not on student aid, so for half of the student body, they’re paying for this cost out of pocket. Thinking about that half of the student body, they would benefit from this because it’s not an expense that they need to kind of worry about,” Flores said. “Even like a few days or even like a few weeks of a refund, that’s like hundreds of dollars that they could be using for books or other expenses.”
When students were sent home during the spring 2020 semester amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university issued refunds for housing and meal plans to students who were no longer using the services.
The resolution demands similar action in light of the current public health conditions that make it difficult for some students to return to campus, according to Rassieur.
“Just given the already enormous financial cost of attending Georgetown and being a college student here, we thought it made sense to extend the tuition reduction that has been there in the past for these students,” Rassieur said.
GUSA members previously met with the administration Jan. 6 and discussed the possibility of issuing academic refunds for the upcoming semester; however, the university rejected the proposal to refund tuition costs.
When asked for a comment, a university spokesperson referred The Hoya to a Jan. 10 email to community members in which the university announced that tuition, room and board rates will continue from the fall semester even if students opt for a later return date.
GUSA members decided to focus on prorated refunds for room and board costs after the meeting with university administration, according to Flores.
“We initially brought that up with academic refunds, which the admin has kind of rejected out front,” Flores said. “We kind of wanted to switch gears to meals and housing just because that’s something that’s more immediate.”
The university might be more receptive to issuing refunds if virtual learning continues beyond Jan. 30, according to Rassieur.
“Maybe if students aren’t coming to campus for all of January and all of February, that would probably make sense then to have a refund,” Rassieur said. “The administration is saying if it’s just for two weeks and if virtual learning is just as good as in-person learning, then there’s no reason to give a reduction.”