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Managing Room and Board Credit Adjustments

May 7th, 2020

By Karla Hignite

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How should you address regulations and streamline communication as you issue adjustments for room and board?

There is no special or one-size formula for calculating the appropriate housing and dining credit adjustments for students asked to leave campuses in spring 2020 a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While individual institutions must make decisions based on the unique makeup of their student populations and campus circumstances, there are some helpful resources and guidance for doing the right thing for students in this process, according to Bryan Dickson, NACUBO’s director of student financial services and education programs.

In a discussion with Dickson during the NACUBO webcast on April 3, 2020, titled “Managing Room and Board Credit Adjustments,” Chris Cook, bursar at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, shared how his institution approached this challenge and suggested steps that may be helpful for other campuses. The webcast is available on-demand as part of NACUBO’s free-to-members series Unprecedented Times: Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

First, to make sound decisions that all can agree on and provide a strong united front, ensure all the right people are at the table, said Cook. This group will likely include:

While final decisions might rest with administration, your department of finance will help determine adjustment amounts and how and where funding will come from, as well as provide planning scenarios for subsequent sessions and semesters. Housing and dining staff are crucial for providing information helpful to determine adjustment amounts. Still, it is important to recognize their heavy lift in addressing a variety of logistical challenges such as ensuring that students properly vacate dorms and determining what to do with students’ belongings (shipping, storing, scheduling pickups, etc.), Cook said.

Financial aid staff are helpful not only for providing context surrounding adjustments but also with reviewing the process and signing off on any adjustments to financial aid. Ultimately, student accounts staff and bursars will be where the rubber meets road with regard to actually applying credit adjustments to student accounts. “If a refund is due to a student, we are the responsible party to make sure it happens in a timely manner,” said Cook.

Ensure Effective and Timely Communication

The school’s website, social media presence, and email will make up the primary sources of your institution’s communication with students, parents, and other stakeholders at this time. However, how and what you communicate are even more important in order to ensure that everyone understands the protocol, said Cook.

Among these key communication requirements:

Manage the Adjustment Process

The challenge of providing room and board credit adjustments proves the point that proper planning prevents poor performance, suggested Cook. In addition to identifying all the key players at the start, make sure everyone knows exactly what his or her responsibilities are in this process. These players may not be all the same people involved in the initial planning phase. If refunds are due, primary players include the housing and dining staff to assist in creating those files, the financial team to determine the amounts, and the office of student accounts to process the refunds.

Key aspects of managing the adjustment process are:

Address Residual Changes

No matter how smoothly you have planned your process to run, there will be lingering challenges to address, said Cook.

These may include:

KARLA HIGNITE, Fort Walton Beach, Fla., is a contributing editor for Business Officer.

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