The Gustavian Weekly

Gustavus students face effects of campus housing decisions - The Gustavian Weekly

By Freya Nelson - Staff Writer | September 18, 2020 | News

Campus housing has been an unusual point of stress for Gustavus students this semester. Some students have even opted to take the entire semester online. However, their decision to go virtual is negatively affecting their financial aid awards. Is this a glimpse into the future of all Gustavus students if the college goes fully online this semester?
“Because financial aid is based on the total cost to the student (not just tuition), dropping your housing and meal plan might affect your aid package,” said Provost and Dean, Brenda Kelly, in an email earlier this month.
An interview with junior Gustavus student Katrina Kramer, who has opted to be all-online this semester, proved Kelly’s statement to be true. “[My financial aid] was reduced to the point where I am basically paying what I would have paid if I was on campus,” said Kramer.
Kramer also stated that, ideally, she would have chosen to stay on campus.
“I decided to stay online in order to save money, although that kind of backfired,” Kramer said.
Madelyn Smerillo, a senior at Gustavus, shared a similar experience to Kramer’s. Smerillo, however, found solace in her conversations with the Gustavus Financial Aid office.
“[Financial Aid] did tell me that if Gustavus were to go all online, for everyone this semester, that they would be taking that money away from all students,” said Smerillo.
Even after the reassurance that this aid deduction which, Smerillo states “wasn’t a federal aid deduction, but a deduction from the Gustavus scholarship award” could potentially affect all students, not just the online-opting ones, she still holds some doubts regarding the preparedness of ResLife and the Financial Aid office to face issues this semester. Online-opting students have expressed a frustration with the overall communication from the Financial Aid office. “I have never felt so out of the loop,” said Katrina Kramer.
Another online Gustavus student, junior Alannah Rien, stated “[My responses] from Financial Aid were not informative nor kind.”
All online-opting students interviewed acknowledged that this was a particularly hard time for the college, faculty and students, but still felt there could have been better communication. Madelyn Smerillo also shared, regarding her own experience, that it had been difficult to manage these communications with the Financial Aid office from a virtual standpoint.
“The only way that I even know that I was released and that my room has been filled is because I have seen pictures of my would-be roommate and her new roommate on social media,” said Smerillo.
The most overarching commonality between all online-opting students interviewed was their desire to be on campus. “I would have, one-hundred percent, returned to campus this semester. I might have even done it if they had given us a decision right away. I miss campus and especially miss the opportunity to live with my friends this year,” said Rien.
As students face the difficulties of navigating tough decisions against the obstacles of COVID-19, general uncertainty surrounding campus housing and an overall unusual year, some are choosing to stay home and opt for a virtual semester.
“If it were a normal semester, I would have chosen to stay on campus,” said Kramer.
Students were first given the option to enroll in fully online courses in the beginning of Aug., with a deadline of Aug. 12. Following the aforementioned deadline, some students continued to express interest in pursuing online courses. The deadline was then moved to Sept., for those students who wished to enroll in online only courses.
The majority of the Gustavus student body still remains at home, waiting for the college’s final decision, which is expected to be released on Friday, Sept. 18, regarding all on-campus, in-person classes beginning in Oct.. As the Gustavus administration works diligently to maintain a sense of community amidst a global pandemic and an overall unusual school year, students still continue to be greatly affected by campus housing and online learning.

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