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University System of Maryland board of regents unanimously votes in favor of partial refunds of student fees in the wake of coronavirus safety measures

A week after the University System of Maryland announced that its 12 universities will finish their spring semesters online, the system’s board of regents voted unanimously to allow its chancellor to approve plans for partial refunds of various student fees.

On a conference call Thursday afternoon, Chancellor Jay Perman said the plan had the support of all the system’s university presidents as they work to help students and families amid the nationwide shutdowns caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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“I have regular conversations each week with all 12 university presidents and their executive cabinets,” Perman said. "One of the foremost topics during these conversations has been the partial refund of student fees, including the cost associated with room and board.

“The presidents have expressed throughout these deliberations that they have a responsibility to their students and families, a responsibility to support them through this difficult time when their physical and financial healths are in jeopardy," Perman continued. "There’s agreements among the presidents, therefore, that we should refund a portion of these student fees.”

Perman said he and the presidents “want to make more specific decisions around these refunds very soon," with a statement from the University System of Maryland after the call saying the individual campuses will make announcements about their respective refund processes shortly after a public announcement from the system. In addition to room and board, prorated refunds for parking and athletics fees were mentioned specifically when board Chair Linda Gooden presented the motion for a vote, which was unanimously in favor with no abstentions.

The university system had an operating budget of $5.8 billion in the 2019 fiscal year, and its 12 campuses feature 177,000 students among them. With campuses closing, students are not making use of campuses’ living, dining and parking options. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has also canceled the year’s remaining sporting events, from the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to all spring championships.

Perman said last week that students who took out financial aid to pay for room and board will not have to worry about returning it to the federal government, adding that students who don’t have access to the internet or a computer at home will be provided both. Students and faculty alike are forced to adapt to a distance-learning format, leaving courses that in some cases are intended to include discussion, lab work and group projects to be done online. Commencement ceremonies have been canceled, as well.

Although it won’t help students and their families return to a regular school year, Thursday’s board vote likely will alleviate some of the financial stress they’re facing amid the crisis.

“As the University System works through the challenges associated with COVID-19, we’re continuing to act aggressively to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff," Gooden said on the call. "I thank Chancellor Perman again for his strong and decisive leadership during this difficult time, and I thank our university presidents, as well, who’ve been judicious in their actions, always putting their students first.”

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