Why displaced college students are suing their schools

Colleges and universities are refunding housing and dining fees but not tuition
By: | April 16, 2020
Purdue University has called a lawsuit seeking tuition refunds over online classes "baseless." (Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash)Purdue University has called a lawsuit seeking tuition refunds over online classes "baseless." (Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash)

Students on several campuses have filed lawsuits demanding tuition refunds, arguing that the online classes they are now taking don’t match the quality of in-person instruction.

Students Drexel University, Liberty University, Purdue University, the University of Miami have filed separate lawsuits, according to media reports.

Though Purdue has offered $750 in housing credits, the lawsuit claims students are owed far more, the Journal & Courier reported.

Purdue has called the lawsuit “baseless,” according to the newspaper.


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A South Carolina personal injury firm has filed separate class-action lawsuits on behalf of students at Drexel University and the University of Miami, CNBC reported.

“Although [the universities are] still offering some level of academic instruction via online classes, plaintiff and members of the proposed [classes] have been and will be deprived of the benefits of on-campus learning,” the lawsuits claim, according to CNBC. “The value of any degree issued on the basis of online or pass/fail classes will be diminished.”

And a Liberty University student’s lawsuit claims the Virginia institution is “profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic” by keeping tuition and fees, NBC News reported.

The university is offering $1,000 in credit to students who’ve moved out of campus housing.

“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 the statement, according to NBC. “We have also taken into account the economic impact and legal rights of all the parties involved.”


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Many colleges and universities are refunding housing and dining fees but the most appear unwilling to repay tuition, Mayssoun Bydon, founder and managing partner of The Institute for High Learning, an educational consulting firm, told CNBC in another article.

The shift online comes with its own set of expenses, Richard Arum, dean of the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, told CNBC.

Colleges and universities are, of course, continuing to pay faculty salaries and have had to upgrade software and other technology, Arum said.

“The cost of providing instruction has not decreased, if anything there is an added cost to moving instruction online,” he told CNBC.


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.