By Andy Freeman
There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives and upset the normal operations of numerous agencies and institutions. These disruptions include colleges and universities that have been forced to close or alter their operations.
With campuses around the country shuttered and classes now online—for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, if not longer—students increasingly are demanding that their colleges and universities provide adequate expense and tuition refunds. As a full-time or part-time student, it is not possible to not pay school fees, but there may still be options for refunds and reimbursements.
College expenses and tuition refunds
Because many schools are not offering adequate refunds for housing, meals, facilities fees, and other on-campus costs, and sometimes for tuition, students and their parents may need legal help to obtain what is owed. The lawyers at Brown, Goldstein & Levy are investigating such refund claims for students in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and other states.
Andy Freeman, a Brown, Goldstein & Levy partner who was one of the lead attorneys in a pair of class actions for breaches of contract against the University of California that won students over $90 million, cautions that these cases can be challenging, but that universities are subject to the same standards for honoring contracts as other businesses and institutions.
The strongest claims will be on behalf of students who paid for room, board, parking, gym fees, lab fees, or other fees for services they did not receive. Where students accepted substitute services—such as online learning—the claim that the substitute service is worth less is more difficult to prove.
In all of these expense and tuition refund cases, a lawyer can help you to review the underlying contract in light of the circumstances created by the pandemic.
Current Litigation for College Student Refunds
Litigation already has begun on behalf of students who claim they should not have to pay for housing, meals, and campus amenities they cannot use, and should be offered refunds for other services.
Tuition has become a major focus for many students and parents. As classes are moved to an online format, many students don’t feel they should have to pay full price tuition. Some universities have announced tuition freezes for the next school year, but students need help in the immediate future in the form of refunds.
Within the last week, students have filed lawsuits against Columbia University, Pace University, Cornell University, and Long Island University, alleging those institutions have provided inadequate refunds. While some universities have implemented tuition freezes, this is not the same as a tuition refund.
Those lawsuits came on the heels of similar suits against the University of Miami, Drexel University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, and the University of Arizona. The legal claims include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion, and the lawsuits are styled as class actions, brought on behalf of plaintiffs and similarly situated students.
Families and Students Need Refunds
For these students and their families, a lot of money is on the line; the cost per year for tuition, room and board can exceed $60,000 at private colleges. Refund policies vary widely. In Kentucky, Georgetown College has declined to provide rebates for room and board.
Other schools are providing partial rebates, although not all students are satisfied; the lawsuit against Purdue University, for instance, claims the $750 credit that students received for moving out of residence halls by March 30 is insufficient, which it certainly seems to be.
We’re Here to Help
The attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy are here to assist with any concerns you may have with respect to the legal implications of college and university refund policies regarding COVID-19 closures or alterations.
If you have concerns about any tuition refunds you feel may be owed by your school, please contact us at 410-962-1030 or firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can discuss whether and how we may be able to assist.
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