University approves 100% refund for housing, dining fees after March 28

The motion also includes refunds for parking, recreation and safety fees, and 50% of student services fees on all five system campuses.

A man walks his dog along a quiet Washington Avenue bridge on Saturday, March 21.

Kamaan Richards

A man walks his dog along a quiet Washington Avenue bridge on Saturday, March 21.

Hana Ikramuddin and Abbey Machtig

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved President Gabel’s systemwide refund plan Friday, reflecting over $27 million lost in revenue for the University that will be sent back to students. 

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University’s top governing body passed a 100% refund on housing, meal plans, parking on costs, and recreation and safety fees from March 28 until the end of the semester for all system campuses. Students will also receive a 50% refund of student services fees, although money will not be rescinded from student groups that have already received University funding.  

In a March 22 announcement, the University announced a flat refund of $1,200 to Twin Cities students for housing and dining fees, who were encouraged to leave University housing due to Gov. Walz’s stay at home order which began on March 27. The announcement prompted concern from community members who argued it was not enough. 

University officials estimate a refund for the “common student” who relies on those University services on the Twin Cities campus will be about $2,364.

The new refund calculations were made using the “most common” meal plan, housing scenario, parking and other miscellaneous fees selected by students. How much students actually receive in their refund depends on individual circumstances. 

Students can expect the refunds to appear in their student accounts sometime this month, according to a systemwide email from President Joan Gabel.

“We are only talking about costs here,” said Regent Darrin Rosha. “The benefit to the University is goodwill …  and the relationship with students and their families and at large is a very wise investment on our part at this time.”

The board considered the refund policies of other schools, such as Purdue University, when crafting their proposal. It also weighed the fiscal impact the refund would have on the University.

“Any extra dollar is going to be huge,” said Regent Mike Kenyanya. “If our students become insolvent, they are not enrolling in the fall.”

Regent Micheal Hsu advocated for an amendment that would refund students earlier, beginning on March 16, a proposal that would subtract an additional $6 million from the University’s revenue. The board was split at a 6-6 vote, and the amendment failed to pass. 

While the students who live on campus are a very important stakeholder of the institution, they are not the only priority, said board Chair Ken Powell. He cited faculty and nonresidential students, many of whom come from a variety of financial situations and will all be impacted differently by the situation. 

“Is it perfectly fair? Perhaps not,” Powell said.

The two student unions remain open to accommodate those without access to WiFi or computers, said senior vice president of finance and operations Brian Burnett. Student elections are also continuing despite the break.

“Many of the services are still operating at 100%, including…  mental health services,” Burnett said.

Students are encouraged to send questions to the board and attend a Town Hall about the University’s response to the virus at 4 p.m. on April 7. Details about the Town Hall will be released on Monday.