This is an unprecedented time for all of us. Every day, we face new realities created by the coronavirus outbreak. This event has created a tremendous amount of stress and uncertainty, and I am particularly concerned for our students and their well-being.
I want all of our students to know that George Mason University is here to support you. I know that many of you are worried about your financial stability at this moment. One way that we can help is by providing refunds for housing, dining and parking, which is what I have directed the university to do.
Students will begin to receive their refunds in the coming weeks, with all refunds expected to be processed by the end of the semester. Students who have an Independence plan may receive up to $2,000 from their combined housing and dining refunds, although each refund will vary and be based on specific housing and dining plans. Please refer to these charts to understand what you can expect for your specific refund. Additional information is available in our Student Accounts FAQs.
Credits will be applied automatically to outstanding balances on student accounts, with the remainder refunded by Direct Deposit or check. Students, please check to make sure your mailing address is current in PatriotWeb or enroll in Direct Deposit to assist us in processing these funds. You do not need to take any other action to request a refund. We know you have been significantly impacted by the current crisis and are committed to processing refunds as quickly as possible.
In total, the university will refund $7.1 million in housing fees, $4.3 million in dining fees, and $1.77 million in parking fees. This represents roughly 5,500 on-campus housing refunds, 15,000 parking passes and 4,300 meal plans.
We are also very concerned about our faculty and staff during this time and are taking steps to help ease the financial strain this situation may be causing. Additional information will be forthcoming regarding faculty and staff parking and dining accounts.
Students should be aware that the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act has a number of provisions that may help address students’ current financial needs. For information on Economic Impact Payments, please consult https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know. Information on expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits and online applications are available from the Virginia Employment Commission athttp://www.vec.virginia.gov/covid19. For those with questions about student loans, the Department of Education reported Tuesday that it has set student loan interest rates to 0%, suspended student loan payments, and stopped wage garnishments. Additional guidance is available here: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus under the “Additional Resources for Higher Education Institutions” heading.
We also know that many students need more help and that every dollar counts. In recognition of the unprecedented need and hardship many of our students are facing, the university has changed the focus of its annual Giving Day initiative to Patriots Helping Patriots, with an emphasis on the University Life Student Emergency Fund. The need is great as many of our students work part- or full-time and many have lost their source of income as a result of these unprecedented circumstances.
Many of the requests are directly related to technology so that students can continue learning in our alternative online environment. More than 800 students have submitted applications to the fund, with an average request of $1,900. As of last Friday, $435,508 has been distributed to students in need, out of a request pool of nearly $1.6 million, according to our partners in Advancement.
Our faculty and staff have made tremendous efforts to ensure we can continue our mission of access to excellence. I’m now asking those of you who have the ability to help others, to please consider making a gift to the student assistance fund to help our students succeed and thrive during these uncertain times. We are all in this together, so let’s come together to support those who need our help the most.