To ease financial burdens on students, issue partial refunds

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: Campus administration has a responsibility to alleviate the financial well-being of its student

Illustration of a woman opening an envelope labeled "refund"
Lily Callender/Staff

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On March 13, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ notified students that all instruction would become virtual through the end of the spring semester due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus.

Many students traveled home and found themselves footing the bill for campus resources that have now become fruitless. To ease financial burdens on students, the campus should help support them during this global pandemic by offering partial refunds on select campus resources.

When students paid for tuition and campus fees at the beginning of the semester, they expected a quality educational experience and campus resources were integral to shaping their everyday life. Now, the expected educational experience has been compromised. While the campus’s decision to suspend all in-person instruction is for the best, whether partial refunds will be issued for campus-based, enrollment-related and course material fees remains largely unaddressed. The campus has already issued prorated refunds for campus undergraduate housing, so instituting partial refunds for other now-meaningless resources is an obvious next step.

Although partially refunding the costs for certain resources may be logistically difficult — such as the Class Pass program, which has ties to the city’s public transportation system — it provides both financial solace and flexibility. If students are paying for a service that they can no longer use, then it is only fair that they are reimbursed, especially when you consider that these resources were only utilized for about half of the semester. While this solution is not financially ideal for campus administrators, it’s important to consider that students are paying for an in-person educational experience.

Other universities have instituted partial refunds, showcasing their dedication to lessening the burdens on students during this time. In particular, the University System of Maryland has set a precedent for other universities on the semester system to issue partial refunds for services that students no longer have access to.

The financial repercussions of this pandemic are already taking hold, as record numbers of Americans declare unemployment. Campus administration should acknowledge that recovering financially from these dire circumstances will be difficult for many students, and their road to recovery starts with well-deserved partial refunds on a variety of now-ineffective campus resources. 

Many UC Berkeley students are ineligible for federal aid from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, so having the campus step up to support their financial well-being will go a long way. The campus holds a huge responsibility to do what’s right.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.