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As Colleges Shift To Online-Only Learning, Students Have Lots Of Questions

University of North Texas
The University of North Texas' business school.

As the University of North Texas begins to shift to online-only instruction on Monday due to the coronavirus outbreak, students who live in the dorms are wondering whether they should stay on campus or return home.

Irvin Ruiz – a junior who lives in a dorm and did not buy a meal plan for the school year – said he does not have a kitchen or the ability to store food long-term. Ruiz, a marketing major, said one of the hardest parts of his situation is figuring out how to eat when grocery stores are having trouble keeping staple foods in stock.

”Let’s say Burger King right here – they close at 2. What happens after 2? Do I just not eat after 2?” Ruiz said. “It’s been a bit of a struggle. The RAs are getting a headcount of people who are staying, who aren’t staying. Things are closing a lot earlier. We’ve been just kind of like ‘figure it out,’ you know what I mean?”

UNT says its residence halls and dining services will remain open.

“We understand some of our students have nowhere else to go at this time, and we continue to find ways to increase social distancing and implement additional deep cleaning measures,” UNT says on its website.

UNT initially was not offering refunds because officials said the university is still offering services. But the university adjusted and now says beginning March 23, students who choose to leave university housing “will be given a prorated housing refund based on their move-out date.” UNT also says dining meal plan credits for the spring semester will be calculated and “applied in the near future.”

Ruiz said he does not mind taking his classes online, but he believes he and his fellow students are owed a refund for housing, dining and campus services if they choose to leave for the rest of the semester.

“I feel like some of the fees that we did pay for being here on campus and having the on-campus services should be refunded back to the students because we already pay so much of the fees,” Ruiz said in an interview before UNT changed its position on prorated refunds.

Several universities in Texas and elsewhere are offering prorated refunds to students. They include Trinity University in San Antonio and University of North Texas at Dallas.