As COVID-19 spreads across the nation, universities have shut down their campuses and moved classes online. This has led to many challenges for students.
At most schools, students who lived on campus were hurriedly moved out. At The George Washington University, students were even banned from returning and gathering their belongings. Additionally, students who bought meal plans aren’t being refunded despite being unable to use them. Some universities are offering prorated refunds for room and board, students are still getting shortchanged on other services that they were required to pay for but cannot possibly make use of remotely, such as club and activity involvement and facility usage.
This should not be dismissed as another example of entitled students who just need to “suck it up” and move on. These students entered into contracts with their universities and should reasonably expect to receive goods and services that they paid for. If universities are not allowing students to return and make use of their housing or meal plans, they should compensate students, whether by offering a refund or giving students the option to apply the payments already made to future semesters’ costs.
College seniors are being hit particularly hard. They face graduation in a few weeks, likely without a formal ceremony, and are trying to find jobs in an economy that has been largely shut down. In addition to being unable to speak with their professors in person, seniors are also missing out on opportunities to meet with professional recruiters–one way many students get their first job. Students need access to these recruiters and their universities’ career centers (which they have already paid for with their tuition and fees) in order to find jobs. Universities need to find ways to make these available remotely to students using videoconferencing–even if it is something as simple as setting up office hours for the career center using the same technology that professors have begun to use to teach class. Instead of shortchanging students, universities–many with large endowments–should do their part in assisting their own students, especially those about to enter the job market.
Karl Stahlfeld is the associate director of YAF’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise