Given the cancellation of in-person classes and the closing of campus due to the coronavirus, IU has encouraged all able students to leave campus. To its credit, IU has announced that students living in dorms will be refunded a prorated portion of their housing costs. I applaud IU for this decision. I believe this is fair and equitable, at least for students living on campus.
The problem with the refunds is they are not being issued immediately, rather they will automatically be given as credit on next semester’s bursar account. There is a way for affected students to access these refunds sooner, but that isn't an automatic refund, it requires filling out a form as opposed to refunding them automatically.
Why aren’t these refunds automatically issued to all students now, and why do students have to go through the effort to fill out a form if they want them now? I would assume most of the reason is the ease. By simply subtracting the amount students owe from next semester’s bill, IU does not have to go through a lengthy process ordering direct deposits for all students.
IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said it makes the most sense to simply apply [the refunds] ahead if possible. He also noted that immediate refunds were available for students through the form, and emphasized that any students that are having problems with refunds should reach out to IU to resolve them.
Carney said he is unsure of which IU account the money used for refunds is coming from.
If students had that money in their hands, they could invest it and be earning that interest off of it for themselves. It's not wise to invest in stocks and other volatile assets in this market if students are inexperienced, but there are a variety of fixed income vehicles such as Money Market Accounts, Certificate of Deposits and bonds that earn interest with little to no risk.
Even if students don’t choose to invest, they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get money they deserve. By making it so students have to opt in to get their refund more immediately, IU knows many will not choose to, and the university will be able to keep that money on hand until fall.
I encourage every student eligible for an advanced refund to do so. I trust that each individual knows best how to spend it themselves, whether it be to offset expenses or costs associated with the coronavirus, or simply to save, earn some interest and use it for next fall.
Brett Abbott (he/him) is a freshman studying finance and is the press secretary for College Republicans at IU. He plans to pursue a career in business or politics.