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Refunds for college housing no sure thing amid coronavirus-related closures

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – As colleges and universities across the state shut down campuses and grapple with shifting courses online, many are facing the same question from parents and students: will I get my money back?

The answer may depend on where you go.

Brown University is offering a prorated credit or refund for the unused portion of room and board charges after the school directed students to leave campus by March 22 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to spokesperson Brian Clark. Classes will be taught online.

“This is not the case for tuition,” Clarke wrote in an email. “Academic instruction will continue to enable all students to complete the semester so that academic progress toward their degree is not impeded by the COVID crisis.”

He added unused meal plans will also be eligible for reimbursement.

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At R.I. College, however, the residence halls will remain open even though it too is moving to remote learning, so the school has decided it will not be issuing refunds for either, according to spokesperson John Taraborelli.

“But we recognize that this is a complex, ever-changing situation and we are continuing to adjust and respond to student needs and concerns on a case-by-case basis,” Taraborelli said. “We will continue to evaluate the situation and provide updates to our campus community as necessary.”

Most institutions of higher education are allowing some students to stay even if closing campus, often requiring them to fill out housing exception forms for students who may be left homeless. But RIC decided to keep their halls open instead.

“We are trying to be sensitive to and anticipate the needs of students who are dealing with food and/or housing insecurity outside of campus, or who may not be able to immediately return home for a variety of reasons,” Tarborelli said.

On Roger Williams University’s website, students are told “questions regarding refunds or credits related to room and board fees are currently the most common questions we are receiving from students and parents.”

“We expect to have more information by the end of next week on this question of reimbursement or future semester credits,” the website states. “Once we have made a determination, we will communicate the information to students and parents.” (A university spokesperson has not returned an email for comment.)

A spokesperson for Bryant University directed all inquiries to a COVID-19 section of their website for updates, but the issue of refunds has not yet been addressed.

“The information on room and board policies and procedures will be posted to the emergency site as it becomes available,” spokesperson Cecilia Cooper said in an email.

On Friday, a spokesperson said the University of Rhode Island “will be providing a pro-rated refund.”

“At this point in a normal semester we would have already reached the March 13 deadline for any housing refunds,” Linda Acciardo said in an email. “Given the situation, we are extending that deadline to March 20 and providing a 20% refund of their housing costs this semester.”

At Providence College, the refund question remains unanswered.

“It’s something we are still working through,” spokesperson Steven Maurano said in an email. “When we have details we can share, I will be happy to do so.”

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

This report was changed from the original to reflect URI’s decision on refunds.

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