Since the first known case of the coronavirus in North Carolina was confirmed on March 3, just four days before the start of spring break for 15 of the 17 UNC System schools, universities across the state have been in uproar. The break was extended, classes were moved online, and residence and dining halls were shut down. Considering the rapidly changing and totally unforeseen circumstances, we at Technician believe the UNC System has done an excellent job of moving quickly to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and ensure students will be safe off campus while still receiving an education. However, there are still some looming questions the UNC System itself must find an answer to, and many of them revolve around the word “refund.”
College is expensive; many parents begin to save up for their children's education before or right after their birth just to afford a portion of their tuition, and housing and meal costs outweigh even that for in-state students. Moreover, many students don’t receive any financial assistance from their parents at all. These costs must be partially refunded — proportional to the time on campus lost — to ensure students' quality of life in quarantine.
Students signed up for meal plans for the entire year, and now the vast majority of them don't have access to the few dining locations that remain open. We paid technology fees for facilities we can no longer use. Most of us can't live in the dorms we're paying for, and parking passes on campus have been rendered essentially useless. However, students (or their parents) must still pay for meals, meaning they are essentially paying double with regard to dining.
Any announcement about dining or housing refunds will be made after April 1, but this is only a partial solution. NC State students additionally paid over $2,400 in fees this year for services which largely no longer apply, including bus service ($205 for full-time undergraduates), student center operations and programming ($373.73), and intercollegiate athletics and recreational sports ($400.85).
This doesn't even account for graduating seniors with Dining Dollars they are unable to spend. Each of these fees certainly warrants a partial refund, and in the case of Dining Dollars, the ability to withdraw funds for seniors.
So far, we believe the university has made the best it could out of a bad situation. However, the worst news may be yet to come. We implore NC State to ensure its students are made to pay only for what they may receive. With virtually their entire college experiences canceled for the foreseeable future, we believe this warrants steep cuts to not only housing and meals, but also parking passes and fees. While we understand this is an extremely nuanced and complex issue, we hope the university respects the needs of students and their families in one of the most dire financial straits of their lives, and considers our requests with rationality, compassion and understanding.
This unsigned editorial is the opinion of Technician’s editorial board and is the responsibility of the editor-in-chief.