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Washington State amends housing contracts to include refunds

Andrew Hudson   ||   Jul 10, 2020  ||   

Much of the buzz around the closure and move away from campus last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic was centered around room and board refunds. Now, Washington State University is looking ahead to the fall with a new clause in its housing agreement that will qualify students for refunds if a public health order requires WSU residence halls to be vacated.

The new housing addendum from Washington State's Housing and Residence Life, stipulates that the university will implement a refund or credit policy if a public health order requires residence halls to be vacated due to COVID-19. This is a notable change from the initial draft of the contract that did not account for potential refunds if students were asked to leave student housing early.

Despite the change in policy, students still won’t be able to terminate their housing or dining contracts if other COVID-19 related changes are implemented. That includes a switch to online classes, or other alterations to on-campus classes.

Freshmen at WSU are required to live in on-campus housing for their first year, unless otherwise exempt by an approved waiver. The new housing addendum now expands expedition from the first-year live-in requirement to include “financial and extraordinary hardship.”

Students will also have until August 3 to cancel their housing contract without cancellation fees, which will provide time to view the revised fall 2020 class schedule that will be released on August 1.

According to a report from The Lewiston Tribune, Washington State University issued an estimated $11.8 million in refunds to students as a result of last semester's mandatory transition to distance learning.

WSU is also expected to house 4,000 first-year students on campus this fall, roughly 2,000 fewer than normal. The drop in residential students is, in part, to comply with health and safety requirements mandated by the state.

"The decreased capacity in the residence halls is predicted to account for a $20 million loss in revenue to the housing and dining operation," said university spokesman Phil Weiler in a statement to the Lewiston Tribune. “WSU made extraordinary exceptions to provide refunds last semester. With the reduced occupancy next semester, the housing and dining budget will be extremely constrained.”

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