Was Your Semester Cut Short? You Could Win Big in These Class Action Suits

If you paid for a semester at a college or university this year, chances are that it got cut short. Higher education's response to the COVID-19 pandemic varied quite a bit. Some colleges kept pushing forward, some immediately closed with nothing, and some went to distance learning.

College and University COVID Legal Liability

This unique level of uncertainty and impending need to take action unfortunately left these institutions open to various types of lawsuits. For example, some universities refused to refund room and board money after requiring students to leave the campus. Others simply canceled classes and may have offered money they'd been paid as a credit for future classes but refused to pay it back.

If you're getting an inkling that you may have been ripped off by your university or college, chances are that you're correct! We'll take a look at a few prominent class action suits of this nature. Afterwards, you should look up your institution of higher learning to see if there's a pending case. If not, you may very well be able to initiate a class action lawsuit!

Case Study: Yale University

This Ivy League school is known for many things, but being cheap is not one of them! Students who attend Yale often pay staggering tuition and living costs in the hopes of getting a degree from this prestigious institution.

A student who attended Yale recently filed a class action lawsuit that other students affected will be able to join once legal counsel is established. It was accepted on the docket in federal court, meaning that a judge determined the case was worthy of going to court.

On March 10, 2020, Yale University shuttered its classes and campus. Just two months into the Spring 2020 semester, students were told they must immediately leave the campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, students are generally required to pre-pay for each semester, meaning Yale had collected its full tuition and fees from each student.

Apparently, Yale believed that students were going to be alright with just getting remote course equivalents. However, this lawsuit points out that Yale charges fees for physical facilities and that its online course rate and in-person course rate differ greatly. Yale refused to give money back to students who requested it, stating that they can still complete most courses they started.

Another Case Study: Temple University

This Philadelphia-based private university took a course of action similar to that of Yale. Though it did offer refunds of certain facility use fees, some students are still angry that they are required to take courses online. Beginning as two students independently filing suits in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's court, there is now a class action lawsuit against the university for not giving at least partial refunds to students who were forced to continue courses online.

Temple has asked for the case to be dismissed on the premise that their educational contract doesn't specify how courses are to be delivered. In other words, Temple University believes that by offering students courses with the same content, they are abiding by the terms of the contract they made with students for the Spring 2020 semester. While their motion to dismiss the suit was dismissed by a judge, it'll take some time to see who prevails.

Potential Issues

There are several common law and case law issues associated with these suits. Though there's a clear reason students would have to be angry about the situation, there's a good chance that universities will prevail, but this result will vary by state and is not a foregone conclusion.

This is because COVID-19 is considered an "act of God" in most states, and they could easily argue that they acted in "good faith" under so-called "Good Samaritan" civil liability shield statutes.

Looking for a Refund?

If you attended a college or university and were forced off the campus and not issued a full refund or offered instruction similar in quality to what you received before, you may be owed compensation.

The easiest way to attempt this is by simply joining an existing class action lawsuit for your school, if there is one available. If not, this is enough of a hot-button issue that many higher-end law firms would likely be willing to take on the basis of commission, rather than a high upfront retainer payment.

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