MONDAY 3/23: Note to Parents and Families from VP Sells
March 23, 2020
(This note by Dr. Debra Sells originally appeared on our Facebook page for the MTSU Parent and Family Association on Monday, March 23, 2020.)
I appreciate everyone's patience as we have assessed how we can best support students who are living in on-campus residence halls and apartments. The student population of every university is unique, and each administration is challenged with deciding how to best serve their own students.
MTSU students, as I've mentioned before, come from a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances. Many are the first in their families to attend college and find support on the campus that isn't available at home. Some are from rural areas that don't have reliable internet, which is crucial as we finish the semester in a remote learning model. Some, literally, have no other home to return to because for this season of their lives, the university dorm or apartment IS their permanent home. And some of our students come from abroad or across the United States, and traveling to return home would not be possible at this time.
At MTSU, our decisions regarding residential students are guided by three priorities:
- Keeping our students safe and healthy
- Minimizing disruption to their studies
- Supporting public health goals related to social distancing
That means, as long as we are permitted to do so, we will keep the residence halls and on-campus apartments open and available to those who need housing. It also means, as long as we are able, we will not require students to relocate and consolidate into a smaller number of halls. Students who continue to live on-campus should remember that we are all working together to keep the community healthy and safe, and therefore should observe all public health recommendations regarding social distancing, hand-washing and reporting illness through MTSU Student Health. They should continue to monitor our regular campus updates at mtsu.edu/coronavirus.
While this decision to remain open means our operating costs will not reduce in any appreciable way, we believe it is in the best interests of the students who will be staying on campus. Also, please keep in mind that we will, of course, comply with any orders from public health officials. I encourage all families to consider what their plans would be if we were to receive orders to close all on-campus housing and students were directed to leave very quickly.
As I've communicated previously, we have been trying to understand our best options for helping to share the financial burden that this unprecedented time represents for many of our families. While we will remain open and operating, we know that many families are making the important decision to ask their student to leave campus and move home, and this will create its own set of financial challenges for each family. While our license agreement does not provide for refunds for students who voluntarily vacate prior to the end of the semester, we understand that these are unprecedented times.
In recognition of the varying needs of our students and their families, MTSU will be providing two exceptions to the terms of the license agreement relative to partial refunds for those students who wish to vacate their residence hall or apartment early and move home.
Depending on when the student chooses to vacate, properly checks out, and turns in keys to staff, he or she will be eligible to receive one of two flat amounts that represent a refund of about 60% of the weighted average weekly rate for a period of either five or three weeks.
The student doesn't need to take any action other than completing a proper check out, as the refunds will be made automatically.
- Option A: Students who vacate at any time between March 17, 2020, the official day MTSU announced the rest of the semester would be completed remotely, and 8 p.m. Sunday, April 5, 2020 will be eligible for a refund of $550. This amount represents 60% of the total weekly rate for the five-week period of April 5 to May 10.
- Option B: Students who vacate at any time after 8 p.m. Sunday, April 5, 2020, and before 8 p.m. Sunday, April 19, 2020 will be eligible for a refund of $330. This amount represents 60% of the total weekly rate for the three-week period of April 19 to May 10.
- If the student checks out after 8 p.m. Sunday, April 19, 2020, no refund will be issued.
As previously shared, the Aramark Corporation has also separately agreed that they will roll forward, after May 8, 2020, any unused FlexBucks for students to use in the Fall 2020 semester.
As I have noted before, MTSU Housing will be required to fund these refunds from project accounts dedicated to future renovations and upgrades. We will do our best to make prudent decisions to minimize immediate impact on students who will be living with us in the fall and all future years.
It is our hope that stepping up to share the financial burden with our students will give each family some additional flexibility to truly weigh what is in the best interest of their student's health and academic success. We have also sent this information directly to the email accounts of all students living on campus.
Again, I've appreciated your patience as we have taken the time to analyze all aspects of this important decision. Best wishes to each of our students as they complete this very unusual semester, whether they are doing so on campus with us or from another location.