Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Hospitals at full capacity, hundreds of thousands of people out of work in the wake of coronavirus; these are things that students have no control over. Many of us who work on campus during the semester and are unable to telework have lost our only source of income. The University of Maryland student crisis fund, which normally receives about two to five applications a week, now receives 70 a day.
Many of the students of this university, just like many other Americans, are struggling financially. And yet, unlike many other Americans, we receive almost nothing from the recent coronavirus stimulus package. If we’re claimed as dependents, we personally do not receive funds from the bill, even if we file and pay taxes. But here’s the kicker: the person claiming us as a dependent will not receive the $500 payment for each child, because the bill only provides funds for dependents under 16 years old.
As should be clear by now, this is not a time where most Americans can afford to waste money. And, frankly, paying for a dorm and dining plan we’re not using is money wasted. I applaud the University System of Maryland for providing partial refunds for parking, dining and housing costs, and the state of Maryland needs to support this endeavor.
Obviously, these refunds and the overall loss of revenue for the university have an impact, which is why the University System of Maryland — and this university in particular, as the largest campus in the state — needs financial support from the state government. On March 23, Gov. Larry Hogan launched a $175 million economic relief package for small businesses, workers and nonprofits in the state. There should be similar measures taken to support schools in the University System of Maryland at this time, as they do the right thing and refund students and their families.
There are a few reasons for doing this. One, it’s just the right thing to do. Hogan advised the system to move classes online for the remainder of the semester, so the state should be easing the financial strain for these educational institutions. Additionally, the Maryland shelter-in-place order is preventing students from coming back to retrieve their belongings. This is wise, and I support that action in full.
But South Campus Commons residents, for example, shouldn’t be charged rent when they are physically unable to return to campus and move out. Perhaps financial assistance from the state would allow these on-campus apartments to take the burden off students and their families to pay for rooms they aren’t encouraged to live in.
Student payments for parking, housing and dining also allow the university to pay for service workers, cleaning and housekeeping staff, and other essential personnel on this campus. Financial support from the state would allow this university to refund students and their families without those refunds resulting in additional layoffs for staff during these difficult times. I know it’s impossible to account for every person that needs help during this pandemic, but with twelve educational institutions in our university system, this needs to be a priority.
Liyanga de Silva is a senior English and women’s studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.