St. Thomas sophomore JayZee Brown started a petition asking the university to consider a partial refund of tuition and fees after the university’s recent transition to online learning.
The petition was posted to Change.org Tuesday and has reached over 900 supporters as of Saturday, April 4.
On the petition, Brown asks: “Is it fair for students to continue to pay a university education price, for an online education?”
“I’m taking my last level of Spanish and that has been pretty difficult learning the language online versus in person,” Brown said.
The fees St. Thomas students pay cover labs, technology, activities, health and facilities such as the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex, which closed March 17 in response to an order by Gov. Tim Walz.
Brown emphasized how the AARC’s workout facilities benefited his well-being.
“Working out is a really big stress reliever, so not having that outlet to go to the gym to play basketball or whatever you need has been pretty tough,” he said.
Senior Rachel Nellis believes the partial refund conversation is warranted because students did not sign up for online learning.
“I chose to do an online course last summer because it was half off the original price,” Nellis said. “I don’t think we should be paying this much for online classes.”
Executive Vice President and Provost Richard Plumb responded to the petition.
“Since we anticipate completing the semester, refunds of tuition and fees for facilities, activities, health and technology are not currently being offered,” Plumb wrote.
Students and their families can apply for funding from the Student Emergency Financial Assistance Program if the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a hard hit on their finances.
Emergency funding is intended to ensure students can meet their basic needs, not to replace or supplement financial aid.
Expenses that may be funded include, but are not limited to: rental payments or the costs of temporary housing; medical expenses, including prescribed medications; essential transportation and travel-related expenses; utilities, including internet connection expenses and food.
Students may receive a one-time grant of emergency funding each academic term. Grants will usually be $750 or less.
While refunds are not being issued for classes at this time, prorated refunds will be provided for room and board beginning on Monday, March 16, Vice President for Student Affairs Karen Lange wrote in an email Wednesday, March 18.
Joey Swanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.