6 protections called for in Tuition Payer Bill of Rights

100+ lawsuits have been filed by families seeking tuition and fee refunds from colleges and universities

College and university students deserve a range of guaranteed consumer protections, according to a Tuition Payer Bill of Rights released Wednesday by a coalition of advocacy organizations.

The bill of rights comes as more than 100 lawsuits have been filed by families seeking tuition and fee refunds from colleges and universities that shifted to online learning when the COVID pandemic began this spring.

“We are not questioning the importance of higher education,” James Toscano, president of Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust, said in an online press conference Wednesday. “We are here to advocate for better consumer protections for this major monetary investment.”

Students feel they have no guarantee that online learning this fall will be equivalent to in-person instruction or that they will have access to the facilities and services they need, Toscano said.

More from UB: Live, remote or hybrid? Consider the financial impacts.

“Today’s college students don’t have a clear assurance of what school is going to cost nor what they have actually paid for,” he said.

The Tuition Payer Bill of Rights calls for the following six protections:

    • Advertised benefits and refunds: The right to receive all benefits owed through payment of tuition, fees, and room and board; and to be refunded for services not rendered.
    • Right to opt out of non-essential services: The right to opt-out of paying fees for collegiate athletics, recreation, and other services.
    • Right to no-cost alternatives to textbooks: The right to use no-cost online texts and materials.
    • Right to financial transparency: The right to a clear and detailed explanation of anticipated costs, financial aid, billing and how colleges spend money.
    • Right to know the value of a degree: The right to be informed of the earnings premium that former college students earn beyond the typical high school graduate before enrolling in a college or university.
    • Right to speak: The right to address college governing and advisory boards in a public comment period during open board meetings before decisions are made.

“Without clear information, students experiencing economic and racial marginalization receive yet another signal that higher education may not be for them,” said Kyle Southern, policy and advocacy director for higher education and workforce with Young Invincibles, a young adult advocacy organization. “Now, as much as ever, the best path forward to advance equity in higher education and in our country is to listen to young people and empower them to lead.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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