The University issued partial refunds throughout the end of September to on-Grounds students for housing and all-access dining plans that were not used during the first two missed weeks of the semester, as well as to those who chose to stay home for the fall semester.
Refunds were issued as the deadline for students to receive further refunds of tuition, fees and housing costs approached as a result of withdrawing from the University, taking a leave of absence or leaving an on-Grounds housing contract. Oct. 6, six weeks from the online start of classes, marked the end of the refund period.
A petition against the prorated refund schedule has been circulating for three months. The petition counters the way that the University has refunded tuition, fees and housing costs — specifically advocating for students to receive a proportional refund of housing costs if sent home from their on-Grounds housing by the University.
Housing refunds were issued to undergraduate students who did not move into their on-Grounds housing until after Aug. 31. Students received refunds ranging from $255 for first years to $310 for upperclassmen living in the most expensive singles on-Grounds. These refunds were calculated as 7.65 percent of the total amount students had spent on their housing contract for the fall semester.
Dining refunds only applied to All Access meal plans, and ranged from $190 to $200. There was no refund for the Flex Dollars on these meal plans, or the meals on Block Plans — plans through which a student pre-pays for a set number of meals — as individual meal swipes and Flex Dollars will carry over to the next semester.
The largest refund was for students who chose to study outside of the Charlottesville and Albemarle area this semester — for these students, the fall 2020 mandatory fee and student activity fee has been reduced by $660. The mandatory fee covers University facilities and services, such as the University Transit System, classroom maintenance and athletics, while the $39 student activity fee is sent to Student Council for use in student programming.
According to the University’s prorated refund schedule, students will not receive any further tuition and fees refunds if they choose to withdraw or take a leave of absence from the University at any point on or after Oct. 27.
A petition against this schedule was started by several students when it was first released and has gathered over 1,600 signatures. The petition calls on the University to trade the prorated refund schedule for a proportional one, which would allow students to continue to receive refunds of tuition, fees and/or housing proportional to the remaining time in the semester — abolishing the end to refunds that occurred on Oct. 6 under the current schedule. The petition focuses most on the need for the University to refund students’ remaining on-Grounds housing costs, in the case that they are sent home involuntarily at any point in the semester.
“Students being sent home in mass should not be refunded in the same manner as students who voluntarily withdraw from the university,” the petition reads. “In these trying times, families will be heavily burdened with the cost of tuition and housing, and changing the schedule will greatly alleviate some of this burden.”
According to the petition, students should still be able to get 7.65 percent of what they paid in housing for each remaining week that they miss. This contrasts with the current plan, under which students would receive no refund after the sixth week of the semester.
Dhruv Rungta, a first-year College student and organizer of the petition, said that University administration has so far been clear that it is not interested in changing the housing refund policy.
If students are sent home without a proportional housing refund, Rungta plans to contact the University administration again about the petition.
“I would honestly just send [the petition] and just be like, ‘Hey, we've been saying this for months now,’” Rungta said. “‘You haven't been listening to us.’”