In light of recent events surrounding the coronavirus and its impact on business operations, Fourth View created the Return My Semester series to better understand how the virus has disrupted the education sector.
Fourth View sent FOIA requests seeking information surrounding finances and guidance connected to COVID-19 from approximately the time campuses began acting.
Miami University, in Ohio, responded to our request, which yielded over 30 pages of emails. Here are some highlights:
- In a batch of the President’s emails, files called “script for calls to students” showed Miami University was making calls to students to check up on them in March. But an almost word-for-word script was sent out by university leadership to engage with them and had pre-written canned responses to questions related to tuition reimbursements, remote delivery is poor quality, credit/no credit, graduation, etc.
- On March 17, 2020, Kimberly Moore, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, responded to emails hoping that someone would respond to a student who was requesting certain campus fees be reimbursed. Kim said, “…There are hundreds of emails and calls about this coming through the call center, Office of DOS, residence life, and Brent shared that his shop is getting them too. If I had to rank order the pressing questions we are getting overall: 1. Detailed refund information (tuition, room/board, various fees) 2. Why didn’t we cancel remote classes this week so students can focus on getting home? (Jason has a lot of answers to this that we are directing folks to) 3. Student employment (will they keep their scheduled wages) 4. When will we allow families to return to campus to pick up their student’s belongings? Jason Osborne, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs responded: I am strongly against a tuition refund as the academic enterprise is continuing. I leave other fees to the sensibilities of others, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that we continue to have significant costs related to what many of these funds support, even if that individual student is not using the services. ON the other hand, a gesture of good will might go a long way. As for cancelling classes, because a small portion of students are moving at any given time, any effort in this area would have had to be a long term shut down or we would just have alienated other folks who were forward thinking or those who are not moving at all. I think the best we can do is urge faculty to be caring and flexible, and I think for 90% of the cases, faculty have really exceeded reasonable expectations and continue to do so. We are hearing about the marginal cases.
- On March 18, 2020, Stacy Bretz, a Miami U professor, wrote to VP for Finance David Creamer and Associate VP in Budgeting and Finance David Ellis, saying “I’m writing to ask if you have any updates, specifically, do we yet know the magnitude of the refund to be issued for room & board? Will we be issuing partial refunds for any other categories, e.g., ASC fees, the sports subsidy, ‐ Lord help me, tuition? (I hear calls for this as a Purdue parent where they have a large online brand, too. Parents are clamoring for a partial tuition refund now that instruction is online for the rest of the semester).” Creamer responded: “The room and board refund is about $24 million. After I get some more information tomorrow about the other Ohio schools, we will decide how to handle other fees. We have heard only a little about the instructional fee but a lot about the general fee. In addition to the room and board refunds, we are also losing substantial cash sales from a variety of business activities. We expect summer to be nearly a total loss.”
The request sought communications, including emails, of President Crawford, Provost and Executive VP of Academic Affairs Jason Osborne, and Senior VP of Finance and Business Services David Creamer, that contained the phrase “tuition reimbursement” or “tuition refund” during the months of March and April of this year.