Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Students at 26 American universities sue for partial refund of school fees after coronavirus forced classes to go online

Students from at least 26 universities are filing lawsuits against their schools demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees, saying they're not getting the caliber of education they were promised.

The suits say students should pay lower rates for the portion of the term that was offered online, arguing that the quality of instruction is far below the classroom experience after the coronavirus forced campuses across the nation to close last month.

Along with tuition, the cases also seek refunds for fees that students paid to access gyms, libraries, labs and other buildings that are now closed. The complaints seek refunds that could add up to several thousand dollars per student at some schools.




Some of the complaints maintain that the college experience is about more than course credits.

They say there's value to the personal interaction students get with faculty and classmates, both in the classroom and out. Willey adds that colleges themselves often charge lower rates for online classes, which he says is a reflection of their value.

Grainger Rickenbaker, 20, a freshman who filed a class-action lawsuit against Drexel University in Philadelphia, said the online classes he's been taking are poor substitutes for classroom learning.

There's little interaction with students or professors, he said, and some classes are being taught almost entirely through recorded videos, with no live lecture or discussion.

Drexel closed mid-March and the semester is set to continue online until June 13.

'You just feel a little bit diminished,' said Rickenbaker, 21, of Charleston, South Carolina. 'It's just not the same experience I would be getting if I was at the campus.'

University of Miami undergrad, Adelaide Dixon, is also named in the suit. They argue that they picked the colleges out of 'hundreds, if not thousands' of options for their on-campus experience.

At Drexel it costs $2,405 for access to experiences that require in-person interaction.

'This additional fee was a required charge to cover the costs of opportunities and services that can only be made available to students while the students are physically present on campus,' the lawsuit argues.

'In addition to the tuition and mandatory fees, Defendant charges optional fees for other activities and services that can only benefit students while students are on campus. Examples include but are not limited to room and board, parking fees, intramural and extra-curricular fees, etc.'

'The value of any degree issued on the basis of online or pass/fail classes will be diminished for the rest of the students’ lives,' they state in the lawsuit.

They are suing for 'breach of contract' and 'unjust enrichment'.

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