Texas Woman’s University will not offer partial tuition refunds for spring but is offering students financial help via the Student Emergency Fund, Chancellor Carine Feyten announced in an email Monday.
Feyten addressed what she said are frequent requests for TWU to issue partial refunds, since students said they are not using student fees and online classes are less expensive to teach. Feyten explained that, since TWU is a public university that contributes to the state economy, administrators are limited to offering refunds according to the refund schedule. A Change.org petition for partial tuition refunds had reached 1,673 signatures as of Monday evening.
Feyten emphasized faculty and staff’s efforts to move classes and student services including counseling, advising, academic coaching, and fitness and recreation programming online.
“In almost every aspect of university operations—library, technology, student services—we are doing more than ever to stretch taxpayer and student investment,” Feyten wrote.
Feyten said housing and dining credits were offered late last month to students who moved home amid the pandemic because they fall under “auxiliary services,” and are allocated differently than tuition.
Still, financial help is available to students facing economic difficulties amid COVID-19 in the form of an expanded Student Emergency Fund, Feyten said.
“The faculty, staff and alumni, along with my leadership team, have been deeply concerned about many students’ unfolding financial situation,” Feyten wrote. “From the start of this pandemic, we began to expand the Student Emergency Fund and seeded it with $100,000. Contributions have come in since, and 100% of all of these funds are going directly to students who have financial hardship and loss of income due to COVID-19 repercussions.”
The seed money for the program came from discretionary funds TWU raised from alumni, faculty and staff, and outside donors.
Current TWU students can apply for up to $750 in emergency funding for short-term, emergency needs that will impede their ability to complete the spring semester.
Feyten also said that while students who are dependents on their parents’ tax returns are ineligible for direct stimulus checks, the university is expecting to see funds from the stimulus package – $8,683,388 worth, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Of those funds, a minimum of $4,341,694 is required to be allocated in emergency financial aid grants to students, though Feyten said federal guidelines on exactly what the process will look like are still being refined.
“There are tax considerations and other issues that the federal government needs to take into account, so we are still waiting for those decisions before we finalize our plan for distribution,” Christopher Johnson, Feyten’s chief of staff, said in an email to The Lasso. “We are working several angles so that we are ready to move on distributing the aid as quickly as possible once it arrives.”
The vice president for Student Life, Monica Mendez-Grant, will send information out to students once federal funds are available and guidelines are set, Feyten said.
Feyten also announced that, starting this summer, there will no longer be four distinct terms but instead, TWU will consider all seven sessions within one summer term. The change will simplify the billing and financial aid processes and eliminate multiple billing of fees previously charged each term of the summer. The changes were in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, Feyten said.
Summer classes beginning May 11 will be fully online, though Feyten said administrators hope official health and safety guidelines will allow them to offer limited face-to-face courses later in the semester.
“Let me reiterate that these are our hopes for this summer, but all plans are contingent upon federal and state officials’ guidelines for the health and safety of our community,” Feyten said. “I cannot predict the future with much certainty right now, but as much as we can, we are planning to lift campus restrictions as soon as health officials deem it safe to do so.”
TWU will also offer free summer housing to qualified students as usual “provided that official health guidelines allow us to relax the physical distancing requirements.” The application will be available soon on the housing website.
Amber Gaudet can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at amb_balam.