Residents of Edgewood Commons at FSU may be unable to break leases, despite COVID-19
On Friday, July 24, 2020 news broke at the University of Maryland (UMD) campus in College Park that two campus-affiliated apartment buildings would not release students from their lease agreements despite UMD’s decision to conduct the vast majority of their instruction exclusively online.
The two campus-affiliated apartment buildings at UMD, the South Campus Commons and The Courtyards, are owned by the Maryland Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO), a State-owned entity which serves as an “economic development engine,” according to their website. MEDCO reports that they have funded 307 projects in the state since 1984 and boast a total of 8,323 beds in student housing around the state.
However, MEDCO doesn’t property manage The Courtyards and South Campus Commons at UMD. They are instead managed by a third-party company named Capstone On-Campus Management (COCM) based in Birmingham, Alabama. COCM claims to manage over 35,000 beds on 40 different campuses around the country.
In addition to managing the two properties at UMD, COCM manages the Edgewood Commons apartment building on the campus of Frostburg State University. That location, which will be the home of over 300 FSU students beginning on August 12, was also financed by MEDCO.
COCM manages properties on numerous University System of Maryland campuses including Towson University, Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
In a statement, COCM wrote on behalf of MEDCO that they had “received an increase in requests for lease cancellations” since UMD decided to move classes online, but that “MEDCO is unable to release all students due to its obligations to bond holders, vendors and other entities, as well as not being eligible for any of the federal relief programs currently available.”
It is unknown if FSU students who reside at Edgewood will be released from their leases should the semester move online. TBL reached out to Liz Medcalf, Director of Communications for FSU who responded on Tuesday, July 28 to say that she noticed some “likely differences between us and [UMD],” but would need more information to be sure. As of press time, a final answer has not been provided.
Director of Operations for Edgewood Commons, Susan Kramer, was also asked for clarification. On Thursday, July 30 she wrote, “I am sorry for the delay, I am waiting for a statement from our home office. I am hoping for one today.” As of press time, Kramer has not provided a final answer.
Attempts to reach the corporate office of COCM were unsuccessful as the “Contact Us” feature routed to an error message after clicking submit.
Students say this lack of communication from Edgewood and COCM is not new, however.
FSU Junior Britte Oppong says that COCM hasn’t told students about what might happen if the semester moves online. “All we’ve heard from them is that we can move back,” he says.
Oppong is also pessimistic about receiving a refund in the event that the semester goes online. “I don’t know how their finances work, but I’m sure losing money two semesters in a row isn’t going to be good for them so they might try whatever to keep their money.”
Another student, a Senior who asked to remain anonymous, says she’s lived at Edgewood since she was a Sophomore. She says, “Edgewood hasn’t done too well with communication and the prices have risen this year, as well.”
According to their website, a two-bedroom at Edgewood Commons costs $4,925 per semester for the 2020-2021 academic year. In 2019-2020, the cost for a two-bedroom was $4,764. The four-bedroom price increased by $85, per semester over last year.
The anonymous student says that she also doubts she will receive a refund if classes moved online. “I feel as though the only way we would is if Maryland shut down again and they had no choice,” she says.
When FSU announced that courses would be held exclusively online in the spring semester due to the coronavirus, FSU issued prorated refunds of room and board for on-campus residents. Those refunds were issued on April 17.
COCM also issued refunds of rental fees to Edgewood residents; however, those did not reach residents until June 3, approximately 11 weeks after the announced closure of campus and three weeks after the end of classes.
This is an on-going and developing story which will be updated if/when further information is provided.