COVID-19 has Unleashed an Onslaught of Class Action Lawsuits Against Universities

COVID-19 has Unleashed an Onslaught of Class Action Lawsuits Against Universities

Students had plans for the spring semester. It was the season to meet new friends, attend sporting events, take exciting and engaging classes, and for the Class of 2020, graduate. Of course, due to the COVID-19 crisis, this did not happen. And now students want compensation.

Many colleges and universities are facing an onslaught of angry college students who are expecting refunds because they had to study from home and take classes online. On top of that, many institutions for higher learning have refused to give students refunds in light of the global pandemic.

The Department of Education

Betsy DeVos, along with the Department of Education, gave schools financial grants to generously distribute to needy students to compensate for lack of full education for the spring term. Many students have complained that they have never received any aid from their respective schools.

Instead, several colleges and universities expect students to pay for the full cost of education, even though they must take classes online.

Some universities have already spent funds from the Department of Education to cover necessary expenditures not met because students had to leave their respective campuses early.

To herald their concerns, students are taking their frustrations to the nation's court systems, with many new filings of class action lawsuits.

Online Education

The alleged lawsuits state the students paid to receive access to dining halls, school libraries and resources, and the opportunity to make connections with new friends and acquaintances. Students paid to experience the full college culture. However, with online learning, that experience is now gone.

And at best, online learning is a shell of what a student can experience with their instructors in a live classroom environment. At least, this is the summary of the complaint that students are filing in the nation's courthouses.

In the classroom, students can actively engage with the material along with the participation of their classmates. With distance education, this personal interaction is gone, and sometimes students must make do with pre-recorded lectures and computerized instruction booklets.

Who is to say that online learning is inferior to classroom instruction? Several for-profit colleges make the bulk of their earnings through online distance education.

Better known as diploma mills, students who graduate from non-profit colleges are 80% likely to have taken their entire degree online. In such instance, online instruction is generally not for the traditional student.

An employer may look at a candidate more favorable who has attended a traditional university in contrast to obtaining an online education. Nonetheless, some prestigious colleges, like George Washington University, may post their entire master's degree program online so non-traditional students in all fifty states can attend classes.

People must work while advancing their careers. So, it makes sense to enroll in online education to obtain that coveted degree. The caveat with this new presumption is that online instruction is inferior to traditional learning, which could lead to a complete disruption of the educational system, especially if new case law is established in the nation's federal courts.

University of California, Berkeley

Presently, the potential for lawsuits is immense. Collectively, lawsuit settlements could approach upwards of $1 Billion in payouts to students and their respective legal teams.

The Anastopoulo Law Firm has filed a lawsuit against the University of California. Because of the coronavirus, all in-state colleges and universities will not hold traditional classes this fall. All learning will take place online. Members of the law firm are requesting that universities give students full tuition refunds because of COVID-19.

The lawsuit states that "Common sense would dictate that the level and quality of instruction an educator can provide through an online format is lower than the level and quality of instruction that can be provided in person."

It is quite understandable to comprehend that online instruction is not the same caliber as traditional learning. Other students from schools who have filed lawsuits include:

  • University of Miami

  • University of Arizona

  • Drexel University

  • Liberty University

Students want COVID-19 refunds for tuition, room, and board. Many students had to leave dormitory housing early without any compensation for the missed term. A few schools have made small tokens of refunds, like Liberty University, who gave students $1,000. However, this was not enough.

The Cost of Attendance

As a necessity, schools cannot expect students to pay $10,000 for online instruction when such experience should cost not more than $5,000. Students begrudgingly do not want to pay a premium for a limited experience.

On the other hand, colleges and universities are trying to justify the needed tuition and fees since it takes an incredible amount of effort and finances to put an entire semester's course load online. The reputations of many universities are at stake. Expect the tension to continue as many more institutions for higher learning close their doors for the fall semester.

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