Miami University will be forced to spend tens of millions of dollars on refunds for housing, meal plans and study abroad programs due to campus closures caused by the spread of novel coronavirus, according to an email sent to the faculty from Provost Jason Osborne on March 19.
To save money, Osborne encouraged departments to defer “non-essential” courses, cancel classes with low enrollment and increase section sizes.
“It is in the greatest uncertainty that our current and future actions become ever more important and we all must be careful and strategic stewards of university resources at this time,” Osborne wrote.
David Creamer, senior vice president of finance and business services, wrote in an email to The Miami Student that the long-term effect these refunds will have on the university’s finances is still unclear. He also wrote it’s been challenging for Miami’s staff to process the refunds because most staff members are working remotely.
“We are working to finalize the refunds so we can get this information and the dollars out to students and families as soon as possible,” Creamer wrote.
Parents in Miami’s Parents and Family Members Facebook group debated the necessity of refunds after classes moved online and students living in dorms were required to move out. Some parents said refunds were unnecessary because students are still receiving an education.
Jackie Moyer Neuerer, a Miami parent, argued that while tuition refunds aren’t necessary, housing refunds should be issued because students are no longer living in their dorms.
“Miami has over $500 million in endowments … they have the means to pay their employees during this time,” Neuerer said. “I know it feels good to say you want the school to not give out refunds, but the flip side of that are families who simply can’t afford to pay for a service that they are not receiving.”
Osborne’s email also said that “most universities are seeing lower confirmations for fall term than expected.” Miami could also experience a lower first-year enrollment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bethany Perkins, director of admission, said enrollment for next year is difficult to predict because the current situation is unprecedented, but the cancelation of on-campus tours and events could lead to fewer confirmations.
“Not having students on campus means that every institution is at risk of not engaging them enough or not answering their questions enough,” Perkins said. “We’re really concerned because the key factor in a student being able to commit and know that this will be home for them is now taken away.”
Perkins said a lower enrollment would have a significant financial impact on the university because it depends so much on tuition revenue.
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“We’re incredibly tuition-dependent, so with reduced state funding and the current financial crisis that a pandemic brings, [lower enrollment] would impact us significantly,” Perkins said.
Korrigan Craddock, a senior at Lakewood High School in Hebron, Ohio, is considering attending Miami in the fall. She said she already knew a lot about Miami prior to her visit because of all the information available online, but her campus visit over the summer helped make it one of her top choices.
“I did research before I visited, so I already knew I wanted to consider Miami, but the visit solidified that,” Craddock said. “Deciding on a college is a huge decision, so I wanted to visit to make sure I really liked it.”
Students with questions about the coronavirus and the university’s policies can reach out to Associated Student Government.