Colleges Face Lawsuits for Refusing to Refund Tuition
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has shut down businesses all around the country. Schools are also closed, with classes taking place online for now. Some states have hinted that schools might not reopen at all this school year. For schools where students pay for tuition and other things like meals, dorms etc., this brings another set of issues.
College students for example have had to quickly travel back to their parents homes or make other living arrangements once schools closed. Many of them are also borrowing money to cover these unexpected expenses. Even though students will no longer be living on campus, utilizing campus amenities or services or eating in the school cafeteria, many colleges and universities are not offering any refunds for tuition or room and board.
Some schools, like Harvard, Tufts, Duke, Rutgers etc, have said that they would refund (or partially refund) room and board. But many other schools are not offering any refunds yet. Georgetown College in Kentucky for example told students in an email that it “is not in a financial position to offer any rebates on housing or meal plans”.
College tuition is expensive. The lowest prices are for public school for in-state students, who normally have to pay just over $10K per school year. Price more than doubles for out-of-state students and then private universities get way more expensive. At Columbia University in New York for example, students spent an average of $57, 208 per year in 2019.
The Education Department has issued some guidance to schools regarding the coronavirus impact. But it is still up to individual schools to decide if they will issue any refunds due to the coronavirus closures.
So students are now filing lawsuits against their colleegs in order to make them pay back some or all of the tuition. A group of students filed a class action lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents, alleging that their room and board fees should have been refunded after the school closed, Top Class Actions reports. This lawsuit affects students at Northern Arizona University, Arizona State, and the University of Arizona.
Roy Willey, a class action attorney, has filed a class action against Drexel University on behalf of one student which seeks “a refund of certain tuition fees and other costs paid to defendant for the 2020 Spring Semester.” He says that Drexel has an online program that’s offered at a lower fee, which means that “it has a lower value and so, the students are entitled to a refund for the difference in value between what they contracted for and what they’re actually getting”.
Liberty, a private evangelical university in Lynchburg, Virginia, is also facing a lawsuit from students. The class action accuses the school of breach of contract. Meal plans at Liberty cost as much as $4,450 and student housing costs up to $8,000. Liberty officials said the lawsuit has no merit because the university’s changes were required by government officials. The university will give a $1,000 credit to students who opted to leave campus, Liberty added.