Since asking students who could to move out of on-campus housing, all three of the four-year higher education institutions in the Twin Ports have agreed to refund students for their on-campus housing and unused dining fees.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior, the College of St. Scholastica and the University of Minnesota Duluth will all refund students using similar calculations based on the amount of time students won't spend on campus.
In a virtual meeting Friday morning, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved President Joan Gabel's revised system-wide proposal for refunding students' housing and dining.
The proposal will refund students 100% of their housing and unused dining fees, prorated from March 28 through the end of the semester in early May.
It's a more comprehensive plan than the one that was shared with students early last week, which would have refunded UMD students who had moved out of their on-campus housing a flat rate of $1,000.
University leadership began reconsidering its original refund calculation after Gov. Tim Walz issued the stay-at-home order, which went into effect the evening of March 27, which is why Gabel arrived at March 28 as the date from which students would be refunded.
Since the order has gone into effect, Gabel said nonessential employees and students not still living on campus have been prohibited from returning to campus, which has affected campus life and services.
"Things feel very different since then and we are working in a very different way since then," Gabel said.
The new plan will refund students for additional services as well.
"Some of which we were not asked to even put on the table, but did anyway, because we wanted to reflect how campus life has changed," Gabel said.
The additional refunds include a prorated refund in parking, transportation and recreation services fees they have already paid as well as a 50% of student service fees.
The new refund plan will require 11,000 different calculations due to a wide-ranging variation in student services across campuses, Gabel said, making it difficult to ballpark the average dollar amount students will be refunded.
In total, the refunds will leave the University of Minnesota system with a revenue loss of $27,824,000, which includes $4,432,000 at UMD.
During the Board of Regents meeting, Regent Richard Beeson said the university is on "strong ground" to handle the reduction in revenue.
"This is why we have reserves, this is why we have margins, this is why we have strong credit ratings, this is why we have a good balance sheet," Beeson said. "We're prepared to work through these issues."
UWS students who have moved out from on-campus housing were asked to apply for a refund in order to receive a prorated refund on their housing fees beginning at the time of their move-out date.
Nearly all students who have moved out of on-campus housing have already applied for the refund, said Jeff Kahler, vice chancellor of administration and finance.
"We had people apply for refunds because we had to know 'What are your intentions, when are you leaving?' " Kahler said. "And then that helped us determine what kind of refunds we would have to do. Anyone who applied and emailed us, saying, 'Yes, I'm leaving,' they got a refund."
Before the pandemic, UWS had 637 students living on campus. That number has since dwindled to 137, students who are largely international students or others who didn't have a better alternative than living on campus.
Students are also getting refunded for unused dining fees they've already paid, which will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
"We value our students and they're important to us," Kahler said. "If they're not going to be using our residence hall services or our dining services, we can't charge them for that we need to do the right thing."
At CSS, students who moved out of their on-campus housing will be refunded 40% of what they already paid for housing in the form of credit, said Ellen Johnson, vice president of enrollment management.
"If they have an outstanding balance it will go toward that first and then after that would be given as a refund," Johnson said.
CSS arrived at 40% because that's the percentage of the semester students who moved out will not spend in on-campus housing.
The college determined March 19 as the beginning date, which is when CSS formerly announced courses would continue in an alternative format for the remainder of the semester.
Each student will receive a detailed accounting for how their refund was determined, Johnson said, which they will see by the end of the semester.
"These tactics will be work, but we feel that's what we need to do to serve our students," Johnson said.
Students who have left their on-campus housing but haven't been able to move their belongings out will be refunded in the same manner as everyone else. Dining refunds will depend on the student's plan.
At the beginning of the semester, 752 students lived on campus. Currently, about 60 students remain in their on-campus housing at CSS.