"I live in Chicago. I'm not paying for a dorm room that's unoccupied in New York," senior Ashley Bowden said.
Bowden owes approximately $7,000 for room and board.
"I'm graduating next month," she said. "And if I don't have my account clear, like if my balance is still on my account, I won't be able to receive my degree."
The university has kept the campus dormitories and cafeterias open, but students said they didn't feel safe staying on campus.
"There is no feasible way to social distance at school," student Maxwell Cohen said. "Students are sharing the same water fountain, students are sharing the same door knobs, students are sharing the same showers."
Cohen had reached out to 7 On Your Side Investigates team and initially wanted to remain anonymous, but an article from last weekend in the student newspaper, The Pioneer, inspired him to go on the record.
The article detailed layoffs and lack of refunds for students despite the fact that the university is slated to receive $7 million from the federal stimulus package.
"I really think they're going out on a limb with student safety
Parents tell Eyewitness News they have been emailing school officials for weeks about a refund and have not received a definitive answer.
One parent who wanted to remain anonymous shared with Eyewitness News the email response she received from administrators.
"We are unable to provide additional information regarding any potential refund at this time," the message said. "We will continue to communicate to students as decisions are made."
In a statement issued to Eyewitness News Monday evening, the university said, "Letters went out today to students regarding adjustments for housing (and meal plan) costs incurred after the University moved to online learning."
Student Sophia Strauss said her parents stopped making room and board payments as of Monday morning.
"My room that I was in was completely empty on March 22, so I have been out of there over a month now, and I'm not going back anytime soon," she said.
An online petition demanding the university issue refunds to students for room and board has garnered more than 1,000 signatures.
Some students are also seeking a partial refund of tuition.
A student of the university has filed a federal lawsuit against the university seeking a refund of tuition for part of the spring semester since students are no longer allowed to attend classes in-person.
Student Chanel Lubsey is not the student who filed the lawsuit, but may seek a reimbursement for tuition costs.
Lubsey is a journalism major and said she was supposed to work on projects this semester, which can only be completed in-person. She said instead her professors have been sending instructional videos.
"I know it's not the professors fault because it's out of their control, but it's not what I'm paying for," she said.
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