By Anna Cincotta, Editor-in-Chief
Less than three weeks into Gettysburg’s in-person semester during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60 students tested positive for the virus and over 150 were told to quarantine due to contact tracing. Three college employees working on campus have also tested positive since Aug. 30.
Approximately 1,300 students were told to move out of residence last weekend due to the rise in cases and the college’s quarantine capacity, and over 100 of them gathered around the steps of Penn Hall to protest the college’s de-densification plan the morning after it was announced.
Tension among the student body is palpable.
“While it is obvious that they are only doing it because of pressure from students and parents, I am glad that Gettysburg is offering a partial tuition refund,” said Marisa Balanda ’20. “It not only offsets the disruption that they have caused us, but also compensates for the caliber of education that will be delivered virtually.”
This afternoon, Bob Iuliano and Provost Chris Zappe announced that a 10 percent tuition credit will be applied to the accounts of students “continuing with or transitioning to remote education for each semester of remote attendance during the current academic year.” An FAQ page states that all students in the remote cohort will receive a flat $3,000 refund for tuition. The page also explains that financial aid packages might be affected due to the college’s move to remote instruction, and that adjustments may be made in the coming weeks.
Students leaving campus due to the spike in positive cases of COVID-19 will also be refunded 80% of the cost of room and board, and another $100 will be awarded to students returning home in order to cover the potential cost of additional testing. These credits will be applied to student accounts within 60 days.
Students remaining on campus will not be receiving any refunds.
Last spring, a 50 percent room and board refund resulted in a severe dent in the college’s budget. According to Iuliano’s comments during a faculty meeting last April, the $7 million the college lost then can be largely attributed to the housing and meal plan reimbursement after students were sent home in March due to the coronavirus.
Assuming the cost of a 50 percent room and board refund to almost all students and an 80 percent refund to about 65 percent of students has a similar cost, and that approximately 1,300 students were sent home this semester, the budgetary hit from this semester’s refunds could reach over $11 million.
In today’s email, administrators apologized for how the return to the residential experience played out. “Simply put, we know how disappointing this is—and we are truly sorry for the need to reduce our in-residence student population this fall,” Iuliano and Zappe said.
The decision to keep first-years and transfer students on campus, according to Iuliano and Zappe, was “guided exclusively by academic considerations.” At this moment in time, though, what happens in the spring is yet to be determined.
“If we are forced to be partially remote next semester—and we hope that is not necessary—the impact on class years and cohorts will inevitably be different and those different considerations will inform our decisions.”