Students file lawsuits against at least 26 colleges demanding refunds

Students file lawsuits against at least 26 colleges demanding refunds
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Over two dozen colleges around the country have been sued by students who want tuition refunds on their spring terms that have largely been forced online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The class-action complaints include both private and public institutions, including Brown, Cornell, Columbia, Michigan State, Purdue and the University of Colorado, Boulder, The Associated Press reports.

“I don’t understand why these universities feel the need right now to hold onto something that frankly doesn’t belong to them,” Colorado attorney Igor Raykin, who's representing the student who filed against the University of Colorado, previously told The Hill.

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Raykin's client Miles Levin claims in the lawsuit that he paid over $650 in fees for this year's spring semester.

Ken McConnellogue, a spokesperson for University of Colorado, said that the fees allow the university to utilize some services that can still be accessed by students virtually.

"Student fees cover debt service on some facilities, which students voted to approve,” McConnellogue said. “Fees also pay salaries and benefits for staff who provide ongoing maintenance, and whose work will help ensure readiness to reopen at the appropriate time.” 

The institution refunded $44 million in housing and dining fees to students after it decided to switch to online learning in March.

South Carolina lawyer Roy Willey, who's representing students in over a dozen of the cases, told the AP: “You cannot keep money for services and access if you aren’t actually providing it. If we’re truly going to be all in this together, the universities have to tighten their belts and refund the money back to students and families who really need it.”

In mid-April, an anonymous lawsuit was filed against Liberty University, which made headlines when it decided to allow its students to return to campus amid the pandemic.

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"Liberty University is, in a very real sense, profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic — keeping its campus and campus services ‘open’ as a pretext to retain Plaintiff’s and the other Class members’ room, board and campus fees, despite no longer having to incur the full cost of providing those services, all the while putting students’ finances and health at risk," the student's lawsuit reads.

It added: "Liberty’s decision to tell its students that they could remain on campus to continue to use their housing, meal plans, parking, and the benefits of the services and activities for which their fees paid, was not only illusory and empty — because there were no more on-campus classes — but it was also extremely dangerous and irresponsible."

University president Jerry Falwell Jr. has defended the decision to allow students to return to campus. The university said at the time that it offered an $1,000 credit to all students who decided to move out of the dorms.

"Liberty University has tirelessly attempted to balance the needs of students, employees, and the community as it has navigated through the unprecedented health challenges presented by COVID-19," the university said in a statement. "We have also taken into account the economic impact and legal rights of all the parties involved."