Nicole Divers explains in a Martin Center column why the UNC System’s approach to housing refunds creates a dilemma for students.

Two UNC system schools, Western Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro, have announced that they will not offer students housing refunds if the university closes due to another COVID-19 outbreak.

Both schools added an addendum to their housing contracts relieving them of liability should campus shut down again. The addendum states that “in the event of such closures, restrictions, and/or adjustments to the housing services schedule, the University shall not have the obligation to issue a partial refund or credit for such interruptions or adjustments.”

In response to student concerns, UNC-Greensboro updated its COVID-19 FAQ website to clarify that the policy came from the UNC system rather than Greensboro’s administration.

It’s unclear, though, whether the policy is an optional recommendation from the UNC system or a requirement.

Bill Roper, the UNC system interim president, told state university chancellors in a May 29 memo that the university “should include language in student housing contracts that the university retains the discretion to close or restrict use of campus housing and to alter the schedule of housing services to preserve health and safety.”

Several universities have yet to adopt the new housing addendum. North Carolina State University announced a COVID-19 housing update on June 1 which states that “NC State’s total liability in such cases shall be limited to issuing pro rata refunds or credits for such periods that residents are prohibited from residing in university housing unless otherwise directed by the UNC System.”

UNC-Chapel Hill released a statement June 24 which said that they plan to prorate housing costs if dorms close and said more information would be forthcoming.

Students have strongly condemned Western Carolina and UNC-Greensboro’s plans. Laura Comino, a UNC-Greensboro student, posted the contract to Twitter to warn other UNC system students.