Student Groups Demand Arizona Colleges, University Address “Financial Safety” Threat

“DEMANDS ARE NOT ALL-INCLUSIVE AND WILL LIKELY EVOLVE AS MORE ISSUES ARISE”

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PHOENIX – As Arizona’s small business owners stoically struggle to finds ways to survive the COVID-19 lock down and attempt to ward off financial ruin, progressive student groups have come together to demand educational leaders and taxpayers protect their “financial safety.”

Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Arizona Coalition for Change, AZ Youth Climate Coalition, Black Phoenix Organizing Collective, Fuerte Arts Movement, MECHA de ASU, Phoenix City Councilmember Carlos Garcia, Poder in Action, Progress Now Arizona, and Puente Human Rights Movement issued the demands to the presidents of Arizona’s three publicly funded universities, the Maricopa County Community College system, and the Arizona Board of Regents on April 30.

Dear Presidents Michael M. Crow, ASU; Rita H. Cheng, NAU; Robert C. Robbins, UofA; Chancellor Steven R. Gonzales, MCCCD; and the Arizona Board of Regents:

Universities and colleges have taken steps to mitigate the risk of exposure for students on campus, but it is now time to address issues that impact the financial safety of students and our families. As a student body, we remain at risk and are now forced to also navigate an economic collapse that threatens our families while fighting to survive this virus.

We are in an unprecedented time and centering the reality and needs of students is more critical than ever. The administration and the student body must enter into this new online learning experience arm-in-arm with clarity surrounding students’ academic and financial futures.

Right now, many of us have lost our jobs and are unable to afford rent, groceries, and tuition. We are struggling to provide care and education for our children who are now at home with us. Our parents have been laid off and lost their income. Federal stimulus checks and state assistance will not stretch to meet the needs of this month much less the needs of the coming months. Focusing only on our education is not realistic.

We, as students, have joined together and ask that your office take immediate action to address the following demands:

  1. All students, including undocumented and DACA students, who were enrolled in in-person classes be given prorated refunds on their tuition on account of the transition to online classes.
  2. Any student, including undocumented and DACA students, who decides that it is in their best interest to withdraw from the semester or any course shall be given a prorated refund and no academic penalty (such as a W on their transcript) will be given.
  3. Students that withdraw from classes be given the opportunity to retake their courses when the in-person options are once again available.
  4. All students, including undocumented and DACA students, receive a prorated refund on all cancelled services. This includes, but is not limited to, services such as parking permits (essentially still considered active but ultimately useless to students who are not currently living on campus and/or have transitioned to all online courses), fitness facility fees, and any fees related to services presently inaccessible to students.
  5. All students enrolled in the university or college (regardless of major, minor, campus, graduation status, etc.) be given the option to choose a pass/fail grade instead of the current letter grade system for any and all courses.
  6. Your office must work with students and must maintain full transparency regarding decisions that impact the education and financial health of students. This involves sending regular updates to all students regarding any and all changes made by the university. Students, specifically those most impacted by the decisions made, shall be taken note of and allowed input during the decision-making process.

The above-mentioned demands are not all-inclusive and will likely evolve as more issues arise. Thank you for taking our demands seriously to assure that we as a student body, as teachers, and as support staff survive this pandemic and economic recession. We look forward to your response and working with you.

Sincerely,
Members of the student body

Maricopa College District Board member Kathleen Winn stated, “I don’t respond to demands,” and she didn’t. Instead she made a counter offer that might be considered food for thought for any truly intellectually hungry student:

I will gladly discuss options with you. I will consider requests and see what we can do. A demand is either do it my way or else. This situation is unprecedented.

I am working to keep families from becoming homeless, and to stop sexual exploitation, to deliver food to the hungry, and find PPE for organizations and individuals. We did not shut down the country or the educational systems on a whim. I appreciate the struggles that we are all currently faced with. If someone chose not to complete their education during this time that was their choice. We provided opportunities for people to attend their current classes on line.

I am sympathetic to the situation and I am sure we can consider those displaced by the current pandemic. The Community college acted responsibly to shut down and protect our college population. We will also be reasonable when it comes to resolving current issues you are facing. I will gladly have dialogue with you and look for mutually beneficial solutions. Let me know if my counter offer is acceptable.

Respectfully,
Kathleen Winn

The University of Arizona has offered students a choice between a 10 percent refund at the end of the semester and a 20 percent credit to be added to their account next year.

Arizona State University has offered a $1,500 nonrefundable credit.

Northern Arizona University has offered a 25 percent credit.

Some students rejected the offers and according to JDSsupra, “The first COVID-19 refund class action was filed on March 27, 2020, in the District of Arizona. In that case, Rosenkrantz v. Arizona Board of Regents, the parents of two University of Arizona students seek refunds for fees and costs associated with room and board paid by students attending the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University for the spring 2020 semester. The plaintiffs assert claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion.”

The case is winding its way through the courts.