WHITE PLAINS, Westchester County (WABC) -- For months, Governor Cuomo was urging everyone to stay home to stop the spread. So, when one SUNY student found all her classes were virtual, she heeded the governor's advice.
But when her mom found out SUNY still charged her daughter thousands for unused room and board, she called on Nina Pineda and 7 On Your Side to go all the way to the top to get her money back.
"We're paying for something we're not getting, and it feels like we're being stolen from," said Karen Tucker, mom.
We first met the Tuckers back in February, when they were steaming in the White Plains snow after SUNY Binghamton shifted all their daughters spring classes from in person to virtual. Yet, they were still charged for Mia's room and board, $6,400.
"It's being wasted," Karen Tucker said. "I may as well put it in the driveway and set it on fire."
Mia is a senior majoring in social work. She got word from her college after Christmas break that all her spring classes would be "fully online."
Binghamton kept the dorms open to students. But like many, she was worried about the coronavirus and being on campus in close quarters.
"There was no reason to go back. I was a little uncomfortable. Everything with COVID is uncomfortable," Mia Tucker said.
So the senior stayed home and began working with at-risk women at a local shelter.
But when her mom asked for a refund on rooming, SUNY said "no," saying she signed a no-refund contract the previous fall.
"They switched Mia to remote instruction, I didn't sign up for that. I signed up for in-person instruction. We had to be flexible, then Binghamton has to be flexible," Karen Tucker said.
7 On Your Side contacted SUNY Binghamton. It said so far it's refunded $25 million to students who live off campus, saying they were one of the first in the nation to give room and board relief last spring when the pandemic began, adding the Tuckers can apply for a financial hardship exception.
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They applied, but even though the Tuckers have two kids in college, Karen's full-time teacher's salary and her husband's pension stopped them from qualifying.
"It doesn't seem fair. We save, work hard, and then have someone take it from you for something you're not receiving," Karen Tucker said.
So 7 On Your Side began our homeworker. First, calling the New York State Department of Education and sending numerous emails a to Governor Cuomo.
"I was extremely happy and surprised because I just kept writing and begging and it was like, no, no, no," Karen Tucker said.
She persisted and so did we, SUNY took another look at the Tucker's financial situation and refunded the full room and board bill for $6,400.
"It feels good. We don't have to worry about it. We had to jump through so many hoops, but now that it's over, I feel a lot better," Mia Tucker said.
She graduated last weekend and now Mia's money will help pay for her Masters at SUNY Binghamptom.
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