MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota has decided to issue larger refunds for the room and board of its students — in the form of a credit — after receiving some backlash from the public.

UMN ended in-person classes for all students in mid-March because of the COVID-19 outbreak. That meant that most students moved out of their on-campus housing arrangements and back home for the rest of the school year.

Despite missing out on about half of the semester on campus, students were only reimbursed $1,200, or a little more than one fifth of the costs for their room and board and other fees.

In response, the student body circulated petitions online, asking for a larger refund. At the time, University President Joan Gabel said the refund amount of $1,200 was “determined by guidance from internal and external experts and peer institutions.”

Now on Friday she has pivoted, and at a special meeting conducted remotely, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved the “Comprehensive Student Fee Refund Plan.”

“Our world has continued to change since our initial decision on student services and fees and I’ve heard from our students during that time. As a tuition-paying parent, I welcome and appreciate student feedback,” University President Gabel said in a statement. “We considered what we heard and what we’ve learned and adapted our plan to reflect not only what students were requesting, but additional fees that we felt were fair to refund based on conditions. We will continue to take this approach as this unique public health challenge persists.”

The Comprehensive Student Refund Plan offers a 100% credit for charges related to student housing and university services, prorated from the first day of the Gov. Walz’s stay-at-home order (March 28), through the last day of finals in May. The refunds are for: housing, meal plans, parking fees, gym memberships, transportation fees, and student services fees.

A student’s refund may vary depending on which campus the student attends and what charges they had paid for. The students will not need to do anything to receive their credit, which will appear on university accounts within one month, according to the university’s news release.

University Regent Darrin Rosha had previously said that the Board of Regents was not consulted about the refunds the first time around. He said he was “as surprised as the students themselves” by the original refund amount.

“Any adjustment based on something as significant as the coronavirus response would certainly seem to be something the board would be informed about — but I was not informed about it,” Rosha said.

Then State Rep. Pat Garofalo said that it was wrong for colleges to not refund students more, while acknowledging that they might be in a budget pinch because of COVID-19.

Garofalo announced on Monday that he was drafting a bill to require Minnesota colleges and universities to refund 90% of students’ unused room and board expenses but that he hoped he won’t need to take action and that institutions would adjust their refund policies on their own.

Now the University of Minnesota has.

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