HOUSTON - Notre Dame, Michigan State, and UNC Chapel Hill are among the universities sending students home after COVID-19 outbreaks on campus.
That has many families wondering whether they can get refunds if it happens to their students at Houston-area colleges.
Some families are facing this issue even before classes have begun. They signed up for apartments or meal plans months ago, but their students have since opted to take classes online at home and are stuck with the bill.
"It's just really going to set us back thousands of dollars," says the mother of a Prairie View A&M University student who wishes to remain anonymous.
The mother of the Prairie View A&M student says she signed a lease months ago for an on-campus apartment and a meal plan. But now they'll go unused.
"I'm not willing to have to pay $4000 to just waste. This is a pandemic. We have a large family. We can't just let that money go," she said.
Apartment management American Campus Communities sent us a statement reading: "We are holding a place to live for every person who has signed a lease with us whether classes are in-person, remote or a hybrid of the two learning methods. Lease agreements require that our communities remain operational, provide essential services to residents, and that we pay utilities. Therefore, we are obligated to honor the lease contracts. For residents experiencing hardships, we are here to work with them on a case-by-case basis. Residents also have the option to sublet their apartment if they do not plan on occupying their unit during the time of their contract. Whenever possible, we are working with residents to identify students seeking housing who can fill their spot."
The Prairie View A&M University website says, “A student may cancel their lease only if ACC can backfill their space with a student from the waitlist, in which case ACC will not charge its standard cancellation fee of $650. If a student has a signed lease agreement and withdraws from the university and ACC is not able to backfill the space, the lease will be terminated, and the student will be billed the $650 cancellation fee.”
The school will shift all classes online after Thanksgiving. The website says apartment leases will remain in effect at that time, but they may consider pro-rated refunds on meal plans.
Rice University says they don't have a policy yet if they have to move in-person classes online but point out the school gave room and board refunds when on-campus classes were canceled last Spring.
Texas Southern University's website says all Fall classes will be online through Sept. 14 and will update the plan later.
But this Prairie View family says they feel abandoned. "It's just a terrible situation. We're willing to work with them but they don't want to work with us," said the mother.
The University of Houston is offering classes both in-person and online this Fall, then shifting to all-virtual classes after Thanksgiving.
If the school should have to convert to all-virtual classes before then, they sent us the following statement: "UH Student Housing: As happened during the spring semester, housing will remain open regardless of whether classes move fully online. If a resident would like to cancel their fall agreement they may do so by sending an email to email@example.com.
Cancellations received after July 24, 2020 will incur a $300 late cancellation fee. Cancellations received after Aug. 17, 2020 may be billed the full value of both the fall and spring portions of their agreement.
Students who are not enrolled in classes and cancel after Aug. 17, 2020 will be billed the daily rate for their room from Aug. 17, 2020 until the date of cancellation or move out plus a $750 late cancellation fee.
"Dining: Refunds would be processed on a case by case basis and prorated based on the date the student made the refund request. We would need to verify that students who are on mandatory meal plans because they are in housing, have opted to end their housing agreement and officially moved out of housing."