Student Senate passes a 3.3% tuition reimbursement resolution

The Student Senate pushed the resolution forward last Thursday, which asks the University for a partial reimbursement to reflect the fall 2020 semester’s online modality.

by Ava Thompson

The University of Minnesota Student Senate passed a tuition reimbursement resolution Thursday asking the University to reimburse 3.3% of student tuition for fall 2020 due semester to its one-third online modality.

The tuition reimbursement resolution originally passed in a Minnesota Student Association forum meeting in November. The proportion of tuition reimbursement equates to a 10% reimbursement of the portion of the semester that was exclusively online in the fall. This reflects one-third of the semester, including the delay of in-person instruction at the start of the fall semester and exclusive online instruction during the weeks following Thanksgiving break.

According to Jack Flom, the author of the resolution, bringing the bill to the Student Senate continues to push administrators to reimburse students.

In response to the MSA resolution last fall, President Joan Gabel said in December the University would not recommend a tuition reimbursement.

“We will also continue to welcome and carefully consider your input and advocacy, as we lean into the expertise and guidance available to us, and adapt and adjust as appropriate,” Gabel said in a response letter to MSA, adding that the University had frozen tuition for the 2020-21 academic year.

Compared to the previous draft, the resolution presented to the Student Senate includes reimbursement for all University campuses, as legislation presented to the Senate must pertain to all campuses.

According to a survey from the Morris Campus Student Association, about 85% of students surveyed agreed that if modality is fully online, part of tuition should be reimbursed. About 91% of students surveyed disagreed with paying the same tuition for online courses at the Twin Cities campus, and about 97% of Duluth students surveyed said that tuition should be reimbursed.

Although the resolution asks to reimburse tuition for all students, many graduate and professional students whose departments cover their tuitions would not need a refund, said Richard Gonigam, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology and member of the Council of Graduate Students.

“I think it makes the Senate look bad if we send them a resolution demanding specific action, but then the specific action can’t be applied or isn’t relevant,” Gonigam said. “I don’t pay the University anything. I don’t pay tuition. I don’t pay fees. In fact, they pay me $33,000 a year to go here and work for them. What’s there to refund?”

In response to the question of applicability to graduate students, Flom said that refunds could go to the departments, allocating more resources and services to students.

“I can only imagine that that departmental surplus that would be experienced through that refund would only go to benefiting students more, whether that’s having better access to advising or better access to supplies,” said College of Liberal Arts senator Rebecca Jacobson at the Senate meeting.

According to University spokesperson Jake Ricker, the University administration is aware of the Student Senate’s resolution and will respond in the coming days.