Room and board costs to remain unchanged despite fewer on-campus weeks, remote J-term

By Lily Jones

Due to fewer breaks and earlier arrival for on-campus quarantine, students will be on campus for nearly the same number of days this fall and spring as they would have been during last year’s fall and spring semesters. (Sarah Fagan)

The cost of room and board, totaling $16,630 for the 2020-2021 school year, will remain unchanged and will not include any refunds, despite a shorter on-campus semester and remote J-Term.

Associate Vice President for Student Financial Services Kim Downs-Burns said that this price maintenance is because student enrollment in J-Term has never incurred any additional costs in tuition or room and board and because students will be on campus for a similar amount of time as previous fall and spring semesters. 

Although on-campus semesters are shortened, students will be on campus for roughly the same number of days because the 2020–2021 Academic Year has fewer breaks and earlier arrival times to account for on-campus quarantine. 

Fall students who arrived on Aug. 28 will have been on campus for 86 days. In fall of 2019, students were on campus approximately 90 days, varying slightly if they stayed on campus for breaks. Similarly, students will be on campus for about 14 weeks this spring, depending on the length of breaks; in the spring of 2020, students would have been on campus for 14 weeks if the semester had gone as planned. 

When campus closed during the initial Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020, students received a prorated refund for room and board ranging from $1,000 to $4,380, depending on a student’s family contribution to the cost of attendance. 

Downs-Burns also explained that although students often assume costs are built into the fall semester because Febs start in the spring, that this is not the case. “J-Term is covered by endowment earnings and other sources [outside tuition],” Downs-Burns said.

Every year during J-term, a sizable portion of the student population is off campus exploring internships or other opportunities, as students are only required to be on campus for two out of four J-terms. 

This policy is consistent with other NESCAC schools. Amherst College will have a remote January Term — its version of J-term — at no additional cost to students enrolled in the fall or spring. 

The Student Financial Services Office (SFS) has made changes to their policies to relieve some financial burden incurred by Covid-19. Kim-Burns explains that her office has approved 150 requests for reconsideration of financial aid based on reduction to family income or increased medical expenses. 

“Total additional funding spent since July is approximately $1.1 million,” Kim-Burns said. Instead of looking at 2018 tax returns to assess aid like they usually would, SFS will look at 2020 projected income to accommodate changes. This policy will continue into the spring. “If a family has experienced a drop in income, we want to know about that,” Kim-Burns said. 

She recommends students first reach out to their Dean of Residential Life and then email [email protected] to get help with financial aid. “We are meeting full financial need for the full four years; we need to be here at every moment for students,” Kim-Burns said.