After Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order this week, Purdue University Fort Wayne gave its students living on campus a deadline: move out by noon today.
By now, students have cleared residence halls throughout northeast Indiana, including the University of Saint Francis, Indiana Tech, Trine University and Grace College, although some students received permission to stay.
“Some students don't have another place to live,” Indiana Tech spokesman Brian Engelhart said by email. “Others are international students for whom going home may be problematic. A few have jobs or internships in the Fort Wayne region that are continuing and need to stay for those.”
Students will receive compensation for weeks they were displaced due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
Saint Francis, which decided March 17 to close its four residence halls, applied refunds to student accounts that had an outstanding balance and sent checks to those with balances paid. This was completed by March 20, said Robert Pastoor, vice president for student affairs.
The university had about 380 resident students, he said.
“We know that there will be pressure on our budget but felt strongly that refunding this money to the students was the right thing to do,” Pastoor said in a statement.
Issuing refunds can be a complicated task.
Indiana Tech officials had to consider several factors: whether students had a balance on their account; whether students had a payment plan in place; whether their residence hall and meal plan were paid for with federal financial aid; and which situations allowed for issuing credits for the fall semester, which would allow students to potentially borrow less next academic year, assuming they stay at the school.
“By working through those and similar questions, we were able to create a process that we believe will be straightforward for each student,” Engelhart said.
Indiana Tech has almost 700 beds in residence halls and about 50 students remained on campus Monday, Engelhart said, noting the number could have dwindled throughout the week. Refunds will begin to be processed for students in early April, he added.
Almost 1,500 students lived in Trine residence halls as of fall 2019, and those displaced by the coronavirus-prompted closure will receive a refund for five weeks of room and board, spokesman James Tew said.
“There are some complexities involved with that, but nothing we are concerned about at this point,” Tew said by email, noting students withno other housing option could apply to stay on an emergency basis.
Purdue Fort Wayne students who moved out this week will receive some form of a $500 credit based on their situation, and in some instances that might be applied to contracts for the 2020-21 school year, spokesman Geoff Thomas said.
“We hope the credits described above will help offset some of the financial hardships resulting from unforeseen measures that became necessary as a result of COVID-19,” Thomas said by email.
About 1,200 Purdue Fort Wayne students lived in campus housing and university-contracted off-campus housing this semester, Thomas said.
The university has granted permission to 265 students to remain in student housing, he added.
Purdue Fort Wayne has established a COVID-19 Student Relief Fund to help individuals cover education and living expenses. Donations can be made at pfw.edu/give-now.
“For members of our campus community, especially those who successfully juggle everything that comes with being a full-time student, the loss of a job makes a crisis situation like this that much tougher,” university Chancellor Ronald Elsenbaumer said in a statement.
“These students, and the education they receive, are helping shape northeastern Indiana as the future workforce. We need our community's support to help ensure their continued success in any way possible.”