UCO student collects nearly 6,000 signatures for partial refund

A petition calling for the University of Central Oklahoma to partially refund students for the Spring 2020 semester has collected nearly 6,000 signatures online. 

Senior Natalie Marshall, in Forensic Science and Criminal Justice, launched the petition on change.org that seeks to partially refund students for campus services that were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“When we pay to attend UCO, we are paying for the use of the campus and all the on-campus amenities. We no longer have access to that and we didn’t pay for ⅓ of the semester,” Marshall said in the petition. 

Many supporters of the petition commented that students are entitled to a partial refund because of the campus closure and the difference in online and in-class experience. 

The university’s tuition includes mandatory fees such as enhancement fees, parking decal fees, university fees, and other campus services, which became unavailable once the campus closed down amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

UCO students who choose to enroll in online classes pay an additional fee per credit hour.  Students were not charged any additional fees after classes transition to remote-only instruction last semester. 

Douglas Miller, Assistant Director of the Center for eLearning and Connected Environments said the additional fees associated with online courses are used to support additional IT staff, equipment and accessibility cost. 

“While there are some savings from not physically hosting students they are minimal,” said Miller. “Most of the costs for the buildings are sunk cost: construction, installation of equipment, etc. that won’t be received by leaving the classrooms absent for a semester.” 

The outbreak of the coronavirus has impacted many colleges and universities across the country, with institutions moving from in-person classes to extended, or an online-only instruction. 

Several colleges and universities are being faced with class-action lawsuits by students seeking reimbursements for tuition and other fees due to the pandemic-related campus closures. 

A parent at the University of Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, which names UCO and 24 other state institutions. 

“Oklahoma Regents has refused to refund students and their families the unused portions of the fees that they paid to cover the cost of the services and activities, which are no longer available to students,” the class-action petition read.

UCO says it is unable to offer comment on the matter due to pending litigation. 

Many universities, including UCO, have issued prorated refunds to students who were forced to leave campus in mid-March. 

Transportation and Parking Services offered students a prorated parking credit for the remainder of the academic year. Brittany Platt, Administrative Coordinator for Transportation and Parking, said students will receive another automatic credit this semester when classes transition to online instruction only after Thanksgiving break. 

The university offers emergency relief resources to assist students in need of additional financial assistance during this time. Currently, enrolled students can apply for assistance online.

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