Some South Florida colleges gave refunds this summer. What’s up for the fall?

Florida International University’s entrance at the Modesto A. Maidique campus. (Maria Lago/SFMN)

Since the coronavirus pandemic started, classes that were supposed to be face-to-face have become fully remote. Since college can be a financial burden, some South Florida students feel like they are owed a refund or discount. While a few colleges have announced details about discounts, others have not – leaving cash-strapped students in the dark.

In South Florida, a few universities made moves this summer to ease costs. Florida International University (FIU) reduced its parking fee for the semester by $50, from an original cost of $88.72. This discount only applies to U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens. According to the registrar’s office, international students are ineligible.

Gigi Umana is an FIU student with a double major in communication arts and theatre. The Florida resident said that she received the $50 refund after taking three classes during the summer term. 

The total in-state tuition at FIU is $6,565 compared to out-of-state tuition of $18,963 per year for a full-time undergraduate student in the fall, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Umana feels that students should have received more of a discount because of the number of facilities and services they no longer have access to. She also said she was charged online learning fees even though it was not her choice to take classes online.

Miami-Dade College (MDC) waived the parking fee of $3 for the summer semester. In addition, certain course fees may be waived if a face-to-face class switched to remote learning. But students are unsure of when they will receive these refunds.

“Honestly, I was hoping that they would get back to me,” said MDC student Jennifer Pineda. “I still don’t have my refund. I have needs and important things that I have to take care of.”

Broward College, on the other hand, has not announced that there will be any refunds for the summer semester. The annual cost of attendance for in-state students is $2,830 and for out-of-state students, it’s $8,952.

Fabiola Saint-Louis is a Broward College student taking classes this summer. According to her, the school did not mention any discount or refund to students. 

“I had no idea that schools were offering discounts,” she said. “I did not receive any email or any text. They should give us some money back because we are not using their resources. I think it’s unfair. It’s not our fault that the pandemic happened.”

Several colleges in South Florida are planning to reopen their campuses for the fall semester. However, decisions about refunds and discounts remain unclear despite the fact that not all classes will be held in person.

In the fall, FIU will be providing four types of classes: face-to-face, certified hybrid, approved synchronous remote – where professors and students meet remotely – and fully online classes. 

Umana thinks August is too early for FIU to reopen its doors. 

“I don’t think it’s safe. As much as the school can take precautions on campus, stubborn people will continue to be stubborn. The numbers over the past few weeks have skyrocketed and I have no doubt if we open campus in August, it will happen again,” she said.

University of Miami (UM) psychology student, Ariana Guzman, who is taking classes in the fall, shares those concerns. 

“Well, with everything that is happening right now, with cases that keep increasing, I think that it is too early. I don’t know how realistic it would be to think that in a month and a half cases are going to decrease enough for it to be safe,” she said. 

According to their Fall 2020 plan, UM will have a shorter fall semester, starting classes on August 17 and finishing on November 20.

They’re going to give us kits with masks, a thermometer, hand sanitizer and we’re going to have to do a module online on coronavirus guidelines we have to follow,” said Guzman. “The semester is going to start earlier and end earlier. I don’t know how much the tuition is going to be though.”

UM has announced that there will be a COVID-19 refund for student fees such as housing, dining and parking, among others, that would apply to the spring 2020 semester because classes were switched to remote learning on March 24. According to the student financial department, UM has not yet come up with an exact refund amount.

Maria Lago is a Brazilian journalism student at Florida International University. She loves writing, reading and taking photos. When she graduates she hopes to work at a newspaper, magazine or work with marketing.

Laure Ambroise is majoring in journalism. She has been interested in writing since the age of 10, after publishing her first book. To her, journalism is a way to research and share information that will be useful while helping shape the society that we live in.