Campus Reform | Coalition aims to hold colleges accountable for 'undelivered benefits' amid shift to online learning

Coalition aims to hold colleges accountable for 'undelivered benefits' amid shift to online learning

A number of nonprofits have joined forces to defend consumer rights at universities with a protection initiative.

The “Tuition Payer Bill of Rights” launched nationally on Wednesday.

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Several organizations on Wednesday collectively announced the national launch of the “Tuition Payer Bill of Rights,” a consumer protection initiative for those who pay college tuition. 

The nonprofit Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust and others created the initiative to protect students’ rights, giving particular attention to the impact resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Tuition Payer Bill of Rights initiative comes as a follow-up to the lawsuits filed against colleges and universities “for undelivered benefits and services this past spring,”  a news release from the initiative said, and will challenge the schools that are continuing to require full tuition payment for classes that are fully or mostly remote. 

[RELATED: Harvard sued over 'subpar' online learning amid pandemic]

Partnering organizations developed the initiative based on concerns shared by college students and activists in a call,  according to statements provided to Campus Reform.

COVID-19 resulted in a breach of delivery of the quality educational experience, services, and activities for which students and their families paid in the Spring semester," one of those statements read.

The bill itself, obtained by Campus Reform, articulates six rights of college students: the right to advertised benefits and refunds, the right to opt-out of non-essential services, the right to no-cost alternatives to textbooks, the right to financial transparency, the right to know the value of a degree, and the right to speak. 

The initiative aims to "send a unified message to higher ed policymakers urging them to provide basic consumer rights to students and families who foot the bill in higher education."

[RELATED: Colleges nationwide hit with lawsuits over coronavirus refunds (UPDATED)]

The launch in support of students’ rights is led by James Toscano, President of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust; Kyle Southern, Policy and Advocacy Director for Higher Education and Workforce at Young Invincibles; and Laura Comino, a student at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro who started a petition to the UNC system that gained more than 40,000 signatures. 

Nine organizations in total are supporting the initiative, including Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust, Young Invincibles, Third Way, uAspire, College Parents of America, Hildreth Institute, Zero Debt Massachusetts, Consumer Federation of California, and The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mariatcopeland