The Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) passed a resolution Jan. 9 calling on the university to offer pro-rated reimbursements for unaffected housing and food costs.
GUSA Senate Vice President Rowlie Flores (COL ’22) drafted the resolution in response to the university’s decision to begin the spring semester virtually and allow students to decide when they move in to following an increase in cases of the omicron variant of COVID -19. Students can return to campus between January 11 and the start of in-person classes on January 31. The resolution requires the university to reimburse students for the costs of residence living and meal plans for each calendar day they do not use these university services.
If students choose to return to campus later in the month, they shouldn’t have to pay for services they don’t use, according to GUSA Senate President Leo Rassieur (COL ’22).
“You have a lot of people making this very difficult decision not to come back until January 31 and therefore not using the dining rooms or the study spaces or the living spaces or their dorms, or really any what Georgetown has to offer that they pay tuition for,” Rassieur said in an interview with The Hoya.
The resolution prioritizes the safety and well-being of students amid the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Rassieur.
“A lot of people at GUSA and the Senate just believe that for students who chose not to return until January 31, they deserve refunds for the experiences they don’t have,” Rassieur said. “There are a lot of students who don’t feel safe coming back before January 31.”
According to Flores, it is important to provide prorated reimbursements because students who do not receive financial aid pay these fees whether they are on campus or not.
“Half of the students don’t get financial aid, so for half of the students, they’re paying that cost out of pocket. Thinking about that half of the student body, they would benefit because it’s not an expense they have to worry about,” Flores said. “Even a few days or even a few weeks of reimbursement is like hundreds of dollars that they could use for books or other expenses.”
When students were sent home in the Spring 2020 semester at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university reimbursed accommodation and board costs to students who were no longer using services.
The resolution demands similar action in light of current public health conditions that make it difficult for some students to return to campus, according to Rassieur.
“Just given the already huge financial cost of attending Georgetown and being a student here, we thought it made sense to extend the tuition reduction that has existed in the past for these students,” Rassieur said. .
GUSA members previously met with the administration on January 6 and discussed the possibility of issuing academic refunds for the upcoming semester; however, the university rejected the tuition refund proposal.
When asked for comment, a university spokesperson referred The Hoya to a Jan. 10 email to community members in which the university announced that tuition, room and boarding would continue from the fall semester, even if students opt for a later return date.
GUSA members decided to focus on pro-rated room and board reimbursements after meeting with the university administration, according to Flores.
“We first brought it up with the academic refunds, which the administrator kind of rejected,” Flores said. “We kind of wanted to step up a gear for meals and accommodation just because it’s something more immediate.”
The university may be more receptive to issuing refunds if virtual learning continues beyond Jan. 30, according to Rassieur.
“Maybe if students aren’t coming to campus for the whole month of January and the whole month of February, it probably would make sense then to have a refund,” Rassieur said. “The administration says if it’s only for two weeks and if virtual learning is as good as in-person learning, then there’s no reason to give a discount.”