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University of Mississippi to reimburse students for select spring semester expenses

The COVID-19 pandemic has created situations that no one has experienced before, including a lost semester at college.

With in-person instruction canceled on the University of Mississippi campus, and the remainder of the spring semester shifted to online instruction, students began to wonder if they would be receiving any financial reimbursements.

The answer came on Friday when the Institutions of Higher Learning’s Board of Trustees voted to authorize the issuance of credits or refunds for student expenditures.

Ole Miss students who are eligible will be issued prorated refunds for University-sponsored housing, meal plans and parking permits.

The EAGLE spoke with Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce immediately following the IHL’s decision.

“For us, it was more of a case of we understand these are challenging times for our students and their families,” Boyce said. “One of the things that people don’t realize is how many of our students are actually working to help support themselves and get themselves across that (graduation) stage. For us personally, it was trying to work through the process and make sure we had the proper guidance.”

All refunds will be prorated for the period of March 16, the day classes were scheduled to resume after spring break, until May 10, which is two days after the last final exam.

When it became apparent in-person instruction at all of Mississippi’s eight public universities would not resume this semester, Ole Miss officials began examining how a system of issuing refunds to students might work.

The IHL’s decision on Friday fell closely in line with what Boyce and his administration were considering to do in terms of returning certain expenses back to the students.

“About a week or two after (in-person classes were canceled), we began to consider the issue of refunds and consider what we needed to do to help our students and their families,” Boyce said. “The presidents had been meeting on this, so there’s been a coordinated effort across our system and what was put forth (on Friday) was absolutely something that we could 100-percent support without question.”

The national education system has adapted to social distancing guidelines to help flatten the curve and limit the spread of COVID-19. Part of that adaptation included closing campuses for the foreseeable future and shifting all instruction to online or other virtual methods.

Boyce also closed the campus to only “mission-critical” staff, cutting down from the 2,900 employees who would be working on campus during a normal day to roughly a couple hundred.

A playbook does not exist for any university leader on how to respond when a pandemic grinds the nation to a halt, something Boyce and his staff acknowledged when making the decisions of the last month.

“I’ve been in this thing a long time, and I’ve never quite seen anything like it,” Boyce said. “What makes this so challenging is that it’s fluid every single day. Every single day you’re receiving new data, new information and you’re trying to make literally the best decision you can for an awful lot of individuals who have a lot on the line. That’s changing, not on a weekly basis, but sometimes a daily basis.”

Boyce said he is optimistic the beginning of the 2020-21 school year and the fall semester will begin as scheduled on Aug. 24, but he is aware they do not have any idea “what the future is going to look like,” and decisions about the fall are still pending and won’t be made until at least a “couple months.”

Specific instructions for students to follow were emailed April 10 and can be found on the university’s COVID-19 website, coronavirus.olemiss.edu.