Colleges nationwide hit with lawsuits over coronavirus refunds (UPDATED)
- More than 220 student-led petitions have begun circulating with more likely on the way.
- As more petitions circulate, more schools are being hit with lawsuits amid the financial constraints the coronavirus pandemic presented.
Universities across the country are being hit with lawsuits by students who aren’t satisfied with the refunds they’re being provided after being told to leave campus.
The coronavirus pandemic resulted in colleges and universities telling students to leave campus and take their courses online for the remainder of the semester. As a result, some students circulated petitions while others resorted to lawsuits saying the refunds are nowhere near comparable to the costs they paid for the spring semester.
As previously reported by Campus Reform, Michigan State University issued refunds amounting to less than a quarter of students pay for a semester of room and board, despite students there being told to move out halfway through the semester.
Here is a list of universities currently being sued amid the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Arizona Board of Regents
Based on previous Campus Reform reporting, the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees Arizona’s three public universities, (Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University) was hit with a lawsuit on March 27. A Twitter profile, Refund ASU Students was created to raise awareness and demand action.
2. Colorado State University
Prior to this lawsuit, a petition started by one CSU student began circulating, gathering more than 1,800 signatures. After the school continued to deny funds, the student filed the lawsuit as a “last resort” according to The Coloradoan.
3. University of Colorado-Boulder
UC-Boulder student Emily Carpey and her father filed a class-action lawsuit against the school, demanding a partial tuition refund after classes moved online. The attorney handling the case told Campus Reform “students and their families have pre-paid tuition and fees for services, access to facilities and experiential education and the universities and colleges are not delivering those services, access or experience.”
4. Columbia University
A Columbia student filed a class-action suit against the Ivy League school. The lawsuit acknowledges the necessity in evicting students and transitioning classes online for the sake of public health, however, highlights “this decision deprived Plaintiff and the other members of the Class from recognizing the benefits of in-person instruction, access to campus facilities, student activities, and other benefits.”
5. Drexel University
Grainger Rickenbaker, a student at Drexel, filed a class-action lawsuit arguing that the indefinite cancellations and closings of in-person classes, campus facilities, athletics, and extracurricular activities more than justify a refund.
6. University of Miami
The same law firm representing Rickenbaker in the Drexel class action suit is representing Adelaide Dixon in suing the University of Miami proper refunds. The students argue that when the coronavirus pandemic took hold and campuses closed, they were deprived of the benefits that on-campus learning provides.
7. Liberty University
After Liberty opted to keep its student on campus while closing down the majority of facilities and moving to online instruction, an anonymous plaintiff and Liberty student has filed suit demanding a refund.
8. University of Vermont
After a $1,000 housing credit was offered to students who left campus before March 30, students and now plaintiffs, Nilay Kamal Patel and Rachel Gladstone argue that they have not been properly compensated for the room and board expenses they didn’t use.
9. Purdue University
Zachary Church, a senior at Purdue, filed a lawsuit after receiving a $750 refund arguing that the compensation did not make up for the actual amount of money the students lost.
10. University of Michigan
The University of Michigan provided a $1,200 refund/credit for room and board, however, according to the Detroit News, the lawsuit clearly iterates none of the refunds “are commensurate with the financial losses to the University’s students and their families.”
11. Michigan State University
As Campus Reform reported previously, Michigan State University faces a lawsuit after students were displeased with the housing refund. The senior counsel for the firm representing the MSU plaintiffs told Campus Reform, “Students are not getting the full value of their tuition because they are not experiencing on-campus college life and all of the attendant resources.”
12. Wayne State University
After receiving an $850 refund from the Detroit university, Peyton Paymon filed suit demanding that Wayne State refund more of the money that students paid to attend the university.
13. University of California
The University of California System has said it will not refund students room and board costs after students were asked to move out mid-semester. UC did not comment to local media outlets, but its website states, "Tuition and mandatory fees have been set regardless of the method of instruction and will not be refunded in the event that instruction occurs remotely for any part of the academic year.”
14. California State University
A CSU spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that the lawsuit filed Monday "misstates the facts," adding that CSU “will vigorously defend against this suit."
15. Vanderbilt University
As reported by The Tennessean, Vanderbilt University in Nashville faces a class-action lawsuit over coronavirus-related refunds.
“A college or university cannot in good faith continue to collect millions of dollars from its students while failing to offer them the service they’ve paid for,” attorney Steve Berman said. “We will do everything we can to hold them accountable for the parents, guardians, and students left holding the bill amid a global health crisis.”
16. New York University
A parent of one New York University student is suing the college after classes moved online amid the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit says students should have received tuition refunds since they are no longer getting in-person instruction, which they paid for.
“Students have been deprived of the opportunity for collaborative learning and in-person dialogue, feedback, and critique,” the lawsuit states. “The remote learning options are in no way the equivalent of the in-person education that Plaintiff and the putative class members contracted and paid for.”
The plaintiff is seeking $5 million both for herself and other students and parents of NYU, Washington Square News reported.
17. Northeastern University
A Northeastern University student is suing the college, alleging in a $50 million class-action lawsuit that the abrupt switch to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic is "inferior" to in-person classes, demanding that the college refund students' tuition accordingly.
18. Boston University
Students at Boston University filed a class-action lawsuit to try to recoup fees students lost due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the move to online learning instead of in-person classes, as well as room and board fees.
19. Pennsylvania State University
Penn State student Tyler Thomson is suing the university for allegedly depriving him and others of the "true college experience" when it moved to online courses amid the coronavirus pandemic and asked students to move out of their dormitories, WJAC-TV reported.
20. University of Southern California
“USC is one of the nation’s most expensive private universities with a $6 billion endowment and flush with nearly $20 million in taxpayer-funded relief,” attorney Benjamin Galdston said, according to KCBS-TV. “Having failed to provide what it promised students, USC cannot keep their money.”
Student Lastisha Watson, who took out more than $21,000 in student loans for this semester alone, was named in the lawsuit. All of her courses, like those of students across the country, were all moved online amid the coronavirus.
“The online classes plaintiff and her peers have been provided are not equivalent to the in-person, campus experience that plaintiff and other USC students chose for their university education,” the lawsuit states.
21. Syracuse University
A class-action lawsuit against Syracuse University demands the institution reimburse students tuition and mandatory fees for the spring 2020 semester, saying the online learning experience students received amid the coronavirus pandemic was “subpar in practically every aspect," the Daily Orange reported.
22. George Washington University
George Washington University in Washington, D.C. also faces a class-action lawsuit after Mark Shaffer, whose daughter attends the institution, had all of her classes move online amid the pandemic, with less "academic rigor."
“Despite sending students home and closing its campuses, Defendant continues to charge for tuition and fees as if nothing has changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students,” the lawsuit states, according to the GW Hatchett.
23. Florida Board of Governors
University of Florida graduate student Anthony Rojas sued the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees UF and other Florida public colleges, seeking refunds for students who paid campus-related fees and were not refunded that money as classes moved online amid the pandemic.
“It just seems to us so unreasonable to deprive over 300,000 struggling students with thousands of dollars for something they physically cannot obtain,” Rojas' attorney told the Miami Herald.
24. University of Connecticut
Lenny Paris, the father of a UConn student, filed a class-action lawsuit against the university seeking refunds after the pandemic forced classes online.
“As a result of the closure of defendant’s facilities, defendant has not delivered the educational services, facilities, access and/or opportunities that plaintiff and the putative class contracted and paid for. Plaintiff and the putative class are therefore entitled to a refund of all tuition and fees for services, facilities, access and/or opportunities that [UConn] has not provided," the lawsuit reads, according to the Hartford Courant.
"Even if defendant did not have a choice in canceling in-person classes, it nevertheless has improperly retained funds for services it is not providing," the lawsuit adds.
This is a developing list. If you know of other universities facing similar lawsuits, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AlexTokie