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College House residents moving out on March 13, four days before students had to leave campus.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Nearly a month after Penn evacuated most of campus, the University has outlined a concrete plan to issue pro-rated housing and dining refunds to students who were living in University housing or enrolled in a meal plan.

Penn students on dining plans will receive refunds for their remaining spring semester meal plan balance, and departed College House residents will receive pro-rated reimbursements in May on their student billing accounts, according to an email Penn Residential Services sent to students and parents on Thursday.

Co-signed by Business Services Vice President Marie Witt and Finance and Treasurer Vice President MaryFrances McCourt, the email said that dining credit value will be returned based on the student's total number of remaining meal swipes, calculated at the cost-per-swipe of their specific dining plan. Students will also be reimbursed for their remaining Dining Dollars at a dollar-for-dollar ratio. 

The value of the returned housing credit will cover the time between March 17 to May 13, the last day of students' housing contracts, and will be based on each family's financial contribution towards the total cost of attendance.

Housing and dining refunds will be reflected in students' May billing statements, and the credit amount will be first applied to satisfy outstanding balances on student accounts, according to the email. The remainder will be refunded to students' preferred payment method through the University's online billing system Penn.Pay.  

According to the recent Undergraduate Assembly report, based on survey responses from around 944 students, UA President and College senior Natasha Menon said one of the highest priorities for students with financial concerns was hearing a timeline for the issuing of dining and housing refunds. 

“People are definitely in strong support of having refunds for on-campus housing and dining for students," Menon said. 

The report, which was sent to President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett, found that one of students' leading demands for the University was to "refund student fees," including on-campus housing, dining, activity fees and tuition already paid to the University.

“I think Penn giving the money back to their students is the right thing to do," Wharton first year and 2023 Class Board President Derek Nhieu said. “I think with the current state of global affairs, students and their families should have access to these funds, especially for emergencies.”

The University’s announcement comes after peer institutions enacted similar changes. Many of Penn's peers, including Harvard University, Princeton University, Columbia University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with numerous other schools, are offering pro-rated refunds on room and board costs.