As everyone is well aware, the COVID-19 outbreak is wreaking havoc around the world with no intention of slowing down anytime soon. While it might be selfish to focus on finances when this pandemic has already taken over 10,000 lives worldwide, it is something that matters to our student body. The burning question on most college students' and their parents' minds is a potential refund for residency for the semester.
With thousands of dollars spent per semester on housing, parking and a meal plan, it isn't unreasonable to be seeking reimbursement for the semester. This is a hot topic among parents and students alike resulting in many people emailing questions into the school. Chancellor Phillip Dubois addresses this within the same email saying “refunds for housing and dining fees will be postponed until at least April or until we are beyond the imminent issue.” While I do give the university system credit for trying their best to make decisions and keep us updated, there is no reason for students to be paying for services they aren’t using.
In this time of crisis, layoffs are the last thing we need, but if there are no customers, business owners cannot pay its workers. “535,000 people are employed by North Carolina's leisure and hospitality sector, and more than 163,000 people work in other services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” WFAE Charlotte reports that they have been laid off just in North Carolina. With these amounts of cuts happening, parents and students won’t be able to buy necessary things for a living let alone pay bills or college fees. Some utility companies are giving away their services for free so that students and families don’t have to face this problem, but not everybody will be so lucky as to receive this. These refunds could potentially keep a family from running out of food or keeping their power on.
While it is a big decision to decide on whether or not students should be reimbursed and certainly not a decision one person alone can make, the decision has to be made. With no guaranteed date of when this decision will be made besides knowing that it will be “at least April,” students won't get the answer they need anytime soon. UNC Charlotte should reimburse the total amount of money that would have been due from March 20, when all students without accommodations had to be moved out, until the end of the semester. This might be a lot to ask for all at once, but bi-weekly or even monthly payments would help students and their families get by. Schools like Duke are already rolling out reimbursement plans. In an interview with The Chronicle, Duke’s Chief Communications and Government Relations Officer, Michael Schoenfeld, stated that students will be getting their unused living and dining fees back, although “specifics of the reimbursement” are still underway.
For any student that is finding themselves in a bad spot, the Jamil Niner Student Pantry is still open, though hours are reduced. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2-5 p.m., you can go and find the necessities you might be lacking. The Atkins library is also allowing students to check out laptops and calculators until May 7 to ensure students are still able to keep up with their classes.
With the COVID-19 outbreak showing no signs of stopping, I hope that the UNC system will be able to conclude sooner rather than later. During this time of crisis, we need to stick together. With so many layoffs happening, people aren't going to be able to support themselves. The money that will hopefully be reimbursed to students has the potential to change how students are going to live for the next several weeks.
For more UNC Charlotte updates, go to https://emergency.uncc.edu/coronavirus