As many campus services and facilities have shuttered or been restricted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many UW-Madison students are calling for refunds of the fees they paid to fund those resources.
Every year, students at universities across the country are charged an amount, called segregated fees, in addition to tuition and other fees. At UW-Madison, many students are pushing for some sort of reimbursement for the $734.30 in segregated fees meant for the services, programs and facilities that promote the primary mission of the university this semester, all of which have either been completely shut down or hindered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Segregated fees at UW-Madison go towards on-campus services like busing and transportation and the Greater University Tutoring Service (GUTS), but also other services and facilities like the Wisconsin Union, University Health Services (UHS) and University Recreation and Wellbeing. Many of these facilities, programs and services have been severely limited or even entirely closed at some point this semester due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The delayed opening of the Nicholas Recreation Center (“The Nick”) as well as its limit at 25% capacity, is just one example of a service and facility seriously impacted due to COVID-19 restrictions on-campus.
An online petition, that has amounted well over 1,600 signatures, cites UW-Madison’s decision to bring students back on-campus, despite protests from local, county and national officials, as well as the shift to online services for a majority of programs and services, as the reasoning for calls for either a partial or full-reimbursement of this year’s segregated fees.
Breon Newble, a UW-Madison junior and the student who started this petition, made it clear that “UW-Madison should not by any means be entitled to the fees they’ve charged students for this semester for services they have extremely limited or no access to.”
Across the University of Wisconsin system, some campuses are already reducing fees for their students. UW-Milwaukee has significantly reduced their student fees due to the move to distance learning and online classes. Fees for fall 2020 are 23% less than what was charged in fall 2019.
Additionally, seven other campuses in the UW system have also reduced their fees.
At UW-Madison, though, the possibility of reimbursement for segregated fees is still up in the air. Chancellor Blank continues to emphasize that her decision to reopen campus this semester was correct, but many students, like Newble, are unhappy with the “lackluster” semester and are hoping to see some form of reimbursement for the hundreds of dollars paid in segregated fees this fall.