October 1, 2020
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Students demand housing refunds amidst pandemic, Campus Town holds back

By Emmy Liederman
Editor-in-Chief

UPDATE: On April 28, the Campus Town Education Association, Inc. announced in an email that all tenants in “current and in good standing, who do not continue to occupy their units, and who return their keys to Campus Town management no later than May 20th” will receive a $500 refund.

As coronavirus cases escalated in New Jersey and social distancing became a public health mandate, campus life as students, faculty and staff knew it was completely halted. Classes were moved online, students were asked to pack up their dorm rooms and extracurricular activities were cancelled. 

But throughout this unusual period of quarantine, one thing hasn’t changed — Campus Town apartments are still accessible, and residents are still required to pay their rent. 

“I started a petition after talking with my roommates from Campus Town and realizing we were all feeling the same way, angry and confused,” said Kayla Duria, a junior international studies major. “It just doesn’t seem fair that TCNJ is refunding students for room and board but Campus Town, which is directly linked to TCNJ, isn’t doing anything.” 

PRC Group offers a 3 month rent forbearance to Campus Town businesses, suspending rent for April, May and June. (Facebook)

Confusion and anxiety have become a tense reality for residents and representatives at The PRC Group, the company that owns Campus Town property. Residents have taken to social media to advocate for a 50 percent rent refund, while the company pushes back amidst its obligations to utility bills, maintenance overheads and land lease payments to the College. 

Although residents argue that refunds are an obvious solution, Greg Lentine, the vice president of The PRC Group, says that it is just not that simple.

“There is no money available for a refund,” he said. “Residents pay us rent, we get that money and we pay other people. We pay for our ground rent, taxes, gas, water, electric, maintenance, landscaping and insurance. Our venders are begging us to pay them because they have to keep their people working.”

Many students have been frustrated with PRC’s lack of transparency, claiming that the company has intentionally ignored emails and phone calls. 

“There’s been a real lack of communication from (Campus Town) management. There’s a blatant refusal to communicate with students or follow-up with parents via phone,” said Breeda Bennett-Jones, a junior communication studies major. 

Although Lentine’s claims that Campus Town’s layout already lends itself to social distancing much more than a typical dorm would, many residents do not feel safe, stressing that continuing to live in their apartment during the coronavirus pandemic would put them at a greater risk. There are common study areas and multi-unit apartments with shared bathrooms. 

“They seemed to not consider rooming with up to four students in one apartment isn’t an optimal environment to self-isolate or practice social distancing,” said Bennett-Jones. 

Lentine stressed that although the complex is located on campus, it is a private company that pays a ground lease of $400,000 each year to the College. Only renting out space to students, faculty and staff is outlined in their lease agreement. He added that reimbursement from the College would make giving money back to residents more feasible. 

Campus Town residents must be students, faculty or staff members. (Emmy Liederman / Editor-in-Chief)

“We don’t have a state to go to and say ‘you’ve got to make up the difference’,” he said. “We’re just a regular landlord. Move the building two miles away, and most people wouldn’t be confused at that point. Every expense we had when the building was fully occupied to now is still in place.”

As of April 27, only 202 out of 614 residents returned their apartment keys, according to Lentine, which may suggest that many residents are still living in the complex. 

“(President Kathryn Foster) has spoken directly with the management of Campus Town about this issue,” said Luke Sacks, the College’s Head Media Relations Officers. “She has made it clear what the college’s refund policy is and encouraged them to make accommodations for their student residents. They told her they are currently working on a plan. She will continue to press this point with them, but ultimately the final decision is theirs.”

Although Campus Town has issued three emails updating students on the policy, many residents agree that there has not been enough transparency. 

“My mom and I sent emails and there was no response, however when I emailed about moving out they responded, demonstrating how they are unwilling to answer to the concerns families have,” said Alexa Garcia, a senior special education and psychology dual major. “It’s pretty obvious that they don’t care.”

“Students are not asking to be refunded the whole payment, but we are asking for some money back and compassion during this time,” said Garcia. 

Although the situation is complicated, Lentine says that PRC has been trying its best to help students out by communicating with the College and discussing a plan for offering residents credit. He said that more information will be emailed to residents as soon as possible.

18 Comments on Students demand housing refunds amidst pandemic, Campus Town holds back

  1. Their expenses are in no way the same as they were with the development being deserted. My daughter moved out in late March and there was not a soul in her building. If there are so many there, why are they asking people to let them know when they will be there?? Although only half have turned in keys, most are just not officially moving out until the required move out days in early May. They started shutting hours down at the very beginning of this quarantine, so their staffing and utilities are absolutely lower. How can they say their utilities haven’t gone done when most apartments are empty?! They email at 5pm on Friday nights so they don’t need to deal with responses. $425 for a parking space that has gone unused most of the year and yet they cant even refund a portion of that. They make their money off of college students – and yet now are distancing themselves.

  2. Campus Town knows that students are not living there as they sent an email requiring that you let them know when you are coming or going from the complex. When I went to move out, there was not a single person in the building. It is true they email late on Friday nights and have repeatedly sent mass email saying they are working on a plan but have no update so … that is not really worthwhile communication.

  3. Are all the other Ewing landlords returning rents? campus Town is a private landlord. If TCNJ and that goofy President Foster want the Campus Town landlord to return rents, TCNJ should return all the ground lease payments that Campus Town paid TCNJ. did goofy Foster offer that? No… didn’t think so. What an embarrassment.

  4. According to an older Signal article, Campus Town pays $400,000 a year to TCNJ. But divide that 400,000 by 600 student spaces and you realize TCNJ only gets $600 per student in campus town. That’s not even 10% of what a student pays to live there. And how much does TCNJ give BACK to campus town for the bookstore and fitness facility?

    If they ran out of tissues maybe Campus Town needs to wipe their tears with all the money they take in.

    THIS is what the Signal needs to report on.

  5. This business is an absolute slimeball who utterly disgusts me. I know they have no intention of giving money back so to keep acting like its a possibility is just astonishing. I’m sure part of the reason they want to pocket this money is related to all the restaurants downstairs shutting their doors, therefor even less of their precious money coming in every month.

  6. go ahead and pool your money and sue. you don’t have a case. again, are other ewing landlords giving rent back? who will pay the very large mortgage on campus town if the rent is returned. TCNJ. has received over $ 1.5 million in ground lease payments from campus town. why not ask TCNJ president to give that to the CT residents? Oh that money is already been spent on a renovation of the Presidents house in Pennington! you naively think the CT apartment rents go into the landlords pocket … it’s not accurate. all that money pays taxes (yes CT pays ewing taxes unlike TCNj), mortgage, utilities, maintenance, security and state mandated contributions to a renewal reserve. there’s no money to give back. TCNJ has the money. sell the new Presidents 5 bedroom Pennington house and give that money back to CT residents!

  7. Foster should sell her TCNJ funded mansion in Pennington, move to Campus or Ewing and use the proceeds to return money to CT residents. it’s obscene that one person occupies a 5000 sf mansion at the expense of students and faculty. Signal editor – here’s an idea – instead of chasing after a legitimate private business, why not investigate the presidents mansion debacle? that’s where your energies and anger should be focused. TCNJ has a wonderful way of deflecting criticism and blaming others for their bad decisions. i dare you to investigate

  8. lol @boxster and @man4 are definitely somebody at PRC who are all bent out of shape over some article

  9. Ha ha ha… try again “annoyed”. I can’t speak for Boxer but I’m not PRC or work or campus towne. I actually work for TCNJ so I know of what I speak. TCNJ is full of high priced administrators, poor quality facilities (have you seen the freshman dorms?) but spends its money on stupid things (hello statue of lion in the middle of campus). The Signal, unfortunately, is a mouthpiece for the TCNJ administration so I don’t expect them to investigate anything. When I was in college, the campus newspaper was real journalism – not a puff piece.

  10. I’ve asked them to give us a partial refund for tuition. The level of instruction that is going on is laughable. TCNJ had the nerve to send me an email saying they wouldn’t be adjusting tuition because the level of learning that is going on and the “services” they are continuing to provide. TCNJ also said that since it’s a state school tuition fees are already low. But what does that have to do with issuing a refund. We are paying for a full academic semester and what we are getting is not enough to be considered “education”

  11. Good luck getting a tuition refund. Your tuition dollars are already spent. While many in the country have been furloughed and laid off, TCNJ administrators are still getting full pay. How does that make any sense? I know people who are not working but getting their full salary. TCNJ needs a good investigation or audit for the mismanagement that has occurred over the years. Where are the trustees?

  12. Boxer, don’t compare your rental to off campus housing. One kid pays 400 including utilities and there were 4 rooms in the house. There monthly rent is dirt cheap. Their taxes are cheap too.

  13. Off campus housing is very cheap. 400 including utilities with a 12 month lease. No RA, no firedrills, and a driveway to park your car.

  14. 400 is not the standard for off-campus housing unless you’re insanely lucky, splitting a room with someone else, or living somewhere that is falling apart and even then the 400 won’t include utilities (only higher priced ones usually do). It’s usually around 550 per person plus utilities depending on the house as they are usually between 2k-4k a month for the house. I know that many of the people who end up living off-campus choose to do so because they’re paying for all of or part of their housing and can’t afford the 15k+ a year themselves. You can get cheap furniture but living off campus has expenses that aren’t relevant for on-campus students – yes utilities, but also sewage, furniture and the cost of having to move beds and dining sets.

  15. I agree that some off-campus housing is very inexpensive but you miss the point. Why should one landlord (Campus Town) be treated differently than other landlords (other off campus housing)? Just because one offers a premium product with amenities nearby? It doesn’t make sense. What’s good for one should be applied to all. The Campus Town landlord is not TCNJ but a private person who invested his/her own money to build these apartments. Why should he/she go bankrupt just to please some self indulgent students? Student’s chose to live here. If other private landlords were giving refunds and going bankrupt, at least I could see the argument but they’re not. Why not sell the new President’s house, and use that money to refund to all off-campus student rents? Oh no… that might inconvenience some high priced senior administrators. check the TCNJ administrator salaries — they make more than our governor!

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