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Dealing with university housing contracts amid the pandemic in Arizona

Posted at 3:00 AM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 09:20:04-05

Room and board at state universities can cost as much as the tuition itself.

This year, with COVID concerns and classes held remotely, more students wanted to stay home. So how easy has it been for them to get housing refunds?

Kathy is a freshman at Arizona State University who says while there may be a few labs available on campus, she can take all of her classes remotely during the spring semester.

So she decided to stay home.

Despite spending $9,000 for room and board this semester, she says she didn't try to get a refund because of stories from other students.

"I think it's so much of a hassle to go through the process, it's not even worth trying," Kathy says.

To live in a dorm at one of the three state universities, students sign a year lease.

There are ways to cancel. But they can be limited, have to be reviewed and can come with a cost.

The Let Joe Know team asked each of the universities how many students asked and were let out of the housing contract for COVID reasons.

ASU didn't respond to that.

Instead, they led us to their standard policies online.

There, it states there is a $500 cancellation fee and two ways to be released, either for financial or medical reasons.

Both must be approved and the medical release must have documentation from a healthcare provider. The questionnaire asks questions about the student's health condition.

There is no mention of COVID fears or no need to be on campus with classes conducted remotely.

Northern Arizona University also didn't give us the number of students allowed out of leases.

But NAU did say "all requests to be let out of residential housing contracts managed by NAU were approved."

And they say there were no penalty fees charged.

The University of Arizona did gives us a number.

They say to date there have been "602 appeals where the grounds of the appeals included concerns related to COVID (concerns/fears of getting it, psychological/health-related concerns arising from the isolation students have faced due to COVID-related restrictions in the dorms)."

They say all 602 students were released and other than paying any pro-rated amounts, there was no penalty fee charged.

Kathy says she's lucky her family lives in Arizona.

She believes she made the right decision, staying home and only going to ASU occasionally to use the library.

"I know a lot of people who spent the semester on campus and they were just miserable," she says.

Are you a student or a family of a student who tried to get out of a university housing lease for COVID reasons?

You can share your experience by emailing the Let Joe Know team at