By Sawyer Pollitt
Earlier this week, many UMass Dartmouth Students were alarmed to discover that their COIN account balance reported figures that were at times $1,200 higher than they were previously thought to be. This was found to be the result of an adjustment in the University Grant and Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship.
For some students, this new balance resulted in a hold placed on their account. Meaning that they were unable to register for classes and added an additional layer of stress onto the fresh hell that is life in 2020.
The student body was later informed, only after bringing it to the attention of the University, that the changes made to their account balance were a part of the ongoing adjustments being made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an email sent out by Chancellor Robert Johnson on Monday, April 13, the student body was notified that “… the balance due reflected in your COIN financial statement is not the number that will be reflected on your student account on April 17.” the email went on to read “Simply put, we are not yet done adjusting student accounts regarding housing, dining, and parking.”
The Chancellor also offered a solution to students who needed to register for classes with a newfound hold on their account, “If any student was not allowed to register for classes or housing due to this issue, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org immediately.”.
As the COVID-induced diaspora of UMass Dartmouth students breathed a collective sigh of relief, new questions began to emerge regarding this series of events. Students were left wondering why no notification was given regarding the initial adjustments made on their financial aid awards, and why the University Grant and Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship were affected.
The Torch reached out to campus administration with these questions and more. In a response from Public Affairs Specialist, Ryan Merrill, the University addressed these concerns.
First, when asked why Financial Aid Awards were adjusted with no notification, the University replied that “After Chancellor Johnson’s March 27 message announcing account adjustments, we had planned to notify students once all steps were completed on April 17 so they could see their final student account balance.” they went on to say “We acknowledge that a more detailed timeline about adjustments should have been provided and we apologize for the added stress this caused our students during an already stressful time.”
Second, when asked why the University Grant and the Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship were affected, the University explained that institutional grants and merit scholarships would not be refunded. However, because of this, these scholarships and grants would be adjusted proportionately based on the student’s new account balance.
“The adjustment is proportional to the percentage that room and/or board are part of a student’s direct costs. For example, if a student’s room and/or board are 25% of a student’s direct costs for the spring semester, institutional awards were adjusted by 25%.”
Additionally, the Torch asked if graduation fees would be refunded or adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because graduation for the class of 2020 is still planned to be held at a later date, the University has no intention of refunding graduation fees.
Turning to the students themselves, these adjustments have been met with mostly positive responses – however, the reduction of University Grants and Merit Scholarships are rubbing students the wrong way.
Anna Church ( Bioengineering, 2020) reached out to the Torch saying “As helpful as the refunds for housing and meal plans were I am still rather upset about the cut to merit scholarships, in my case the chancellors scholarship…I have maintained the GPA required to receive this for 4 years just to get it cut due to circumstances out of my control. It is rather unfair in my eyes.”
Lauren Conlon (Bioengineering, 2020) shared similar sentiments “I worked hard for my scholarships and maintained the GPA to keep them for 4 years. It’s really disheartening to see that over $1500 of my scholarships have been cut despite still taking 21 credits, just from home now.”
The adjustments to housing, dining, and parking fees did have positive outcomes for many students. Shaelyn Anthony (Data Science, 2023) told the Torch “Thankfully for me I’ve been lucky enough that now the balance is enough that the refund is almost 1600, and can cover my summer class so my family doesn’t have to worry anymore now that nobody can work.”
In a predictable and understandably sterile response, the University addressed the student body,
“At UMass Dartmouth, we have consistently told students that we are preparing them to be agile and adaptable so they can succeed in an uncertain future. This statement has been put into practice by every member of our community and citizens around the world during the spread of COVID-19. The entire leadership team at UMassD has been so impressed with our faculty and staff, and especially you, our students for your resiliency in the face of this unprecedented challenge. We hope you continue to be safe and finish the semester strong”
The UMass Dartmouth Torch will continue to monitor this situation and offer periodical coverage of events surrounding student account adjustments.