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USC says no to partial tuition refunds for coronavirus shift to online learning

USC will not give partial tuition refunds despite the shift to online learning due to the pandemic.
USC will not give partial tuition refunds despite the shift to online learning due to the pandemic.
(Perry C. Riddle / Los Angeles Times)

USC will not give partial tuition refunds for the spring semester or upcoming summer sessions even though the campus has shifted to online instruction, Provost Charles F. Zukoski said Tuesday.

While this is not the semester any of us envisioned, we are continuing to provide a high-quality education, ensure academic progress towards degree, and offer a robust learning environment,” Zukoski said in an email to the campus community. “Whether our instructors present their classes in person or online, they bring the same expertise, depth of knowledge, and commitment to their teaching, and students continue to earn credits toward a USC degree.”

Zukoski’s message came one day after students demanded refunds for mandatory campus fees in class-action lawsuits against the University of California and California State University. The lawsuits argue that the two public university systems should return millions of dollars to the 700,000 students they collectively serve because they can no longer fully access healthcare, campus centers and other services funded by their mandatory fees.

A Cal State spokesman said Tuesday that the university would “vigorously defend” itself against the lawsuit. Students continue to have remote access to many services, including medical consultations, and Cal State has refunded some campus fees, he said.

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A UC spokeswoman said officials had just learned of the lawsuit and would have no comment at this time.

At USC, Zukoski said the university was continuing to build new programs to make the online experience even stronger. He added that all students who left their campus housing were given pro-rated housing and dining fee refunds.

He also said that both summer sessions, which run from May 20 through Aug. 11, will be delivered online and regular grading policies with options for letter grades will return. USC allowed students to choose letter grades or pass/no record during spring semester to reduce student stress caused by the pandemic.

Planning for fall semester is underway, Zukoski said. University officials are trying to figure how to best test for the virus, trace contacts and physically separate those who come back to campus. USC expects to announce their plan within two months.

“We are focused on returning to activities in clinical care and clinical education, research, teaching, learning, and creative and athletic experiences that recognize the risks of the spread of the disease,” he said.

The provost also announced that USC has been allocated about $19 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding, which is earmarked specifically for student emergency use and apportioned largely by a campus’ proportion and number of low-income students who receive federal Pell grants. USC is awarding maximum grants of $3,000 per student for use on food, housing, healthcare, education-related technology, childcare, transportation and other needs.

Zukoski added that officials were disappointed that the funding was not available to international students and students without legal status. However the university is assisting those students with separate funds.


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