Joshua Ceballos/Investigative Editor
After weeks of students waiting to hear about refunds, the University is releasing a plan this week to reimburse housing students displaced by the campus shutdown.
Housing asked all resident students besides those with extreme circumstances to check out of their rooms and leave campus by Sunday, March 22. That left some students asking for their money back since they cannot live in their rooms for the final month of the semester or use their meal plans.
While the University has issued no official statement, administration officials confirmed to PantherNOW this week that students will be reimbursed and a plan will be released in the coming days.
“I know that there’s continued discussions, no finalizations about what that looks like but I believe that’s going to happen. It’s gonna come out within this week, we’re discussing with the State University System and Florida Board of Governors,” said Senior Director for Housing and Residential Life, Andrew Naylor.
Naylor told PantherNOW that there have been several joint discussions between Housing, the office of the Chief Financial Officer, and the Office of Scholarships to figure out how best to disburse the refunds. They are gathering data identifying which students have checked out of housing as well as which scholarships will be affected.
Kenneth Jessell, FIU’s CFO, also confirmed that a refund is in the works for housing and meal plans, but could not discuss any concrete plans as those are still being determined.
“We know how important this is to students and we’re working as fast as we can,” Jessell said.
One of the complexities involved in planning this involves working with scholarships so that students’ future awards aren’t negatively affected.
According to Jessell, giving reimbursements the wrong way could change the cost of attendance for students who get scholarships and financial aid. If cost of attendance is changed, then that could potentially reduce the awards these students get in the future.
“We want to make sure students are not negatively impacted, and we think we can,” said Jessell. “Even at the federal level, they’re giving us guidance on how refunds might affect future awards.”
As for how students will receive their reimbursements, Jessell said the easiest way would be direct deposits to their bank accounts. However, if that doesn’t work for everyone, they will disburse checks.
The move to give refunds comes at the urging of both students and the Board of Governors themselves.
“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,” said a BOG spokesperson to PantherNOW via email.
Students have also asked the University for refunds for commencement tickets that were bought before the campus was shut down. Jessell said that this is also being discussed, but plans for that may come at a different time.
“That’s definitely on our radar,” Jessell said.
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