College students on Long Island are concerned that their room and board in the fall semester won't come with a refund in the age of the coronavirus.
Stony Brook University's policy as stated in the housing application says students will be liable for all boarding costs, even if they are sent home because of a coronavirus outbreak. Third-year student Lamiya Jubaed says she's one of the students who would owe $10,000 per semester if that happens.
"To charge people for being misplaced from a housing situation they prefer, I don't think it's fair," said Jubaed. She started an online petition Wednesday, demanding the school to reverse its policy. By Thursday, there were nearly 5,000 signatures.
"A lot of people didn't know about it, which is why people are so outraged...because there was no specific email sent," the junior said.
The students say administrators told them the SUNY school still has to pay fixed costs like salaries of janitors and cafeteria workers even if they're forced to closed.
"We feel badly about charging students if the halls are required to close due to a spike in COVID (which we hope will not happen), but we cannot offer refunds again since our residence halls have mostly fixed costs," said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student, Richard J. Gatteau, said in an email provided to NBC New York.
NBC New York has reached out to Stony Brook University for an official response.
"A bunch of other SUNY schools are refunding if they close down for the year. And I think Stony Brook should do the same thing," another student Tanecia Sears said.
Stony Brook is among other colleges and universities across the country who are trying to squeeze by the pandemic. They are either holding on to student fees or raising tuition, as well as the cost of room and board.