District is “continuing to discuss”
By Jacquelyn Opalach, News Editor
Students and faculty pleaded with the Peralta Community College District to give refunds to cash-strapped students who opted for Excused Withdrawal (EW) grades, questioning why the district would not follow suit with other community college districts.
Peralta is one of few districts in California not granting refunds for enrollment nearly four weeks after State Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley released an executive order that lifted restrictions for refunding enrollment fees.
The situation is especially pressing for students studying in technical fields or classes that require significant lab work. At the April 7 Board of Trustees meeting, nursing student April Koehler said she feared that virtual labs — imposed as a result of social distancing — would either not be accepted or would put her at a disadvantage in future programs.
“Why should we have to pay a second time, when we did everything correctly and it’s only the condition of life that has put us into this situation?” Koehler asked, worried that she might have to retake the program at her own expense.
Earlier that day, the Laney College Faculty Senate passed a motion and authored a resolution urging the chancellor to refund students who drop their classes. Upset that the district had not taken action to give refunds despite Oakley’s executive order, Kimberly King, PFT vice president and psychology professor at Laney College, complained at the board meeting.
“It’s very disturbing that we live in a place with one of the highest rents in the country, we have some of the poorest students in the country, many of our students are housing insecure, many of our students work in industries where they’re not able to work right now,” King said.
“And yet, we are not giving a refund.”
The district has provided little justification as to why they have not yet decided to give refunds, while maintaining that the situation is fluid and has potential to change. At the April 1 Virtual Town Hall for students via Zoom, Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Siri Brown said that the district had not chosen to give refunds based on guidelines from the state chancellor’s office.
The Citizen emailed the district on multiple occasions seeking clarifications from Brown about the guidelines she referred to, but has not received a response.
“It’s another topic that we’re paying attention to,” Brown said at the town hall. “As the weeks unfold, if there is new information, we will definitely share it with students.”
Two weeks later, at a press conference hosted by the state chancellor’s office, Oakley explained that colleges are meant to utilize the loosened restrictions granted in his executive order. “If a student has a COVID-19 related circumstance, we expect our colleges, if they’re asking for a refund, to give the refund,” he said, adding that local fees, such as parking or health fees at Peralta are more of a district decision.
“The colleges will not be penalized for giving that refund, so they won’t lose any enrollment dollars, and we are working to provide them backfill for the loss of student revenue,” Oakley said.
Following Oakley’s comments, the Citizen reached out to the Peralta district to ask if there might be refunds in the future.
Peralta Community College District Chancellor Regina Stanback Stroud responded: “We’re continuing to discuss this and will let you know as soon as we have information.”
Isis Piccillo contributed to this report.