Cash-strapped Florida college students who left school when campus life shut down are wondering if they’ll get their money back for meal plans and dorm-rooms they aren’t using due to the coronavirus. Investigative Reporter Katie LaGrone gets answers.
Public colleges and universities across Floria have encouraged students who lived on campus to move off campus as a way to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Maxwell Goldstone, a junior at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa is among the thousands who heeded that advice and moved back home.
“My parents helped me move out basically,” he told us recently.
But now the music major is voicing concerns over whether his school will reimburse him for the campus meal plan he’s no longer using or the campus apartment he’s no longer living in.
“I have now lost half of a semester of eating in the dining halls, using the facilities for studying, living there obviously. Now that’s all gone by the waist-side. Why should I have to eat that check,” he asked.
We’ve learned Florida’s University System, which oversees public colleges in the state, is aware of these concerns. Several universities we contacted on Tuesday told us they’re actively working with the Florida Board of Governors and other state universities to determine the best solutions for applying refunds and credits to students.
According to Renee Fargason, spokesperson for the Florida Board of Governors, “to minimize the economic burdens that the COVID-19 emergency may place on students, we encourage each state university to develop a plan for providing a refund, rebate, or credit to students who may no longer be able to utilize their university residence hall and/or dining plan contracts,” she said.
We contacted several major universities in the state.
USF is still working on its payback plan and, according to its spokesperson, details of the plan are expected to be announced this week.
Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers made its plan public on Tuesday. According to its website, residential students will be reimbursed up to $1200 depending on the size of their dorm.
A spokesperson for the University of Florida in Gainesville and F A&M University in Tallahassee said discussions are still underway but no decisions have been made yet. Other major colleges and universities we contacted did not respond to our requests as of the time this article was published.
While Florida dorms remain open to international students and other students with no place to go, Goldstone plans to spend the rest of his junior year home in Orlando, adjusting to learning online and waiting to find out what, if any money, his school will give him back.
“If I’m not living there and not making use of the services that the dorm payment provides to me, I would like that money back. Maybe when this all blows over I can put it towards housing for next year or tuition. College is very expensive,” he said.
Refund policies for students will be announced on individual school websites