As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, March 17 stands out for the major operational impacts that it forced upon the University of Virginia. On that single day, UVA – among many changes – announced plans to keep its courses online through semester’s end, to postpone plans for a traditional Final Exercises, and to further restrict on-Grounds housing.
With most students vacating residence halls and continuing coursework remotely, the University chose to issue prorated refunds for dining and on-Grounds housing.
UVA Today caught up with Steve Kimata, UVA’s assistant vice president for student financial services, to find out more about the process.
Q. Have final decisions been made about providing refunds to students who were enrolled in the spring semester for on-Grounds housing or dining plans?
A. Yes. On Wednesday, the University notified students by email about these prorated refunds that cover a portion of housing and dining costs.
It took a while to work through the details and find answers to some questions because this is a unique situation. We wanted to be very careful to make sure the University’s good intention of providing the appropriate response didn’t cause any problems with regulations around federal financial aid or NCAA compliance, for example.
Q. How many students are eligible for refunds for housing or dining?
A. About 7,300 students received notice that they are eligible for a partial housing refund, a partial dining refund, or both. Many students have both housing and dining services and will be refunded for each.
Q. So a student can either get an actual refund or carry the amounts forward? How does it work?
A. There is a sequence that will happen for each eligible student. First, the appropriate credit will be applied to the student’s account. That will be applied to any outstanding charges on the account first. If there is a balance remaining, UVA will create a refund.
The student then has the option to apply the refund to future tuition, room, board or other charges. They just need to fill out an electronic form that is provided in the notification. If the student prefers a cash refund, no action is required. The refund will be processed through direct deposit. (Many students have direct deposit set up already with UVA, but those who don’t can visit the Student Financial Services website for details on how to do this.)
For families that used money from a 529 college savings plan to pay for spring 2020 expenses, they might want to consult with a qualified tax adviser about possible tax implications of a cash refund.
Q. What’s the deadline by which students and families must decide which option to select?
A. Students have until April 1 to complete the required form if they choose to apply the refund to future charges. No action is needed if a student wishes to receive a cash refund, other than ensuring they have established direct deposit. We will start processing refunds on April 2, and students will get another email confirming when their refund has been processed.
Q. How will a student know how much they are getting?
A. The amount of the refund depends on where they were living and what dining plan they were enrolled in for the semester. Housing and Dining are calculating those amounts on a rolling basis and sending that information to Student Financial Services, and we should have all the information necessary to process the refunds by April 2.
Q. Anything you would like to add?
A. If there are questions about the refund process, students can call the UVA COVID-19 Response Line at 877-685-4836 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Those outside the United States can call +1 202-800-2408.