Angry Students Sue University to Get Their Tuition Funds Back
COVID-19 has caused all sorts of changes, and one area where this is particularly evident is education. The majority of schools have switched to online education, and this is causing all sorts of frustrations for students who feel they shouldn't have to worry about the pandemic. One group of students has decided to file a lawsuit for this very reason.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Rice University
Rice University of Houston Texas is known primarily for its peaceful campus and its emphasis on medical and technological research. However, the past few days, it has been in the news for a whole new reason. A group of annoyed students have banded together to file a class action lawsuit against their school.
The federal lawsuit is fronted by Anna Seballos, a student who is frustrated that the school will not refund her tuition. It primarily addresses events that happened during the spring semester of 2020. The lawsuit alleges that the school is in breach of contract because it took students money but did not provide the promised services.
Students Argue The School Isn't Providing the Experience They Paid For
At the heart of this lawsuit is the fact that Rice University has closed all in-campus services and switched to online only education. Students paid for their spring 2020 semester with the expectation of normal college experiences. However, on March 9, the school abruptly canceled all on campus facilities and student services.
This prevented students from being able to study in labs, access equipment, and get the benefit of talking with peers face to face. For some students, the transition to online learning was a deal breaker. However, the school refused to refund tuition or even lower the cost of future online-only semesters.
According to the lawyers, this is essentially defrauding students of their hard earned money. Students were told they would get certain benefits from attending Rice University. The private college attracted students with promises of a one-of-a-kind college culture filled with all sorts of academic opportunities. However, they are finding that education is not living up to their expectations.
As one student explained, "“I feel like students should get their money’s worth. And if they’re not being allowed to use the facilities because of safety concerns, which is perfectly valid, yeah, reimburse them.”
Plaintiffs Seek Millions of Dollars in Damages
With most students at Rice University paying around $24,000 for their tuition each semester, the cost of all the potential refunds adds up. There are currently 7,100 students mentioned in the lawsuit. Altogether, the lawsuit is asking for $5 million in damages.
These damages include both reimbursing students and addressing the legal fees needed for the suit. In addition to asking for tuition refunds, the lawsuit also asks for refunds on the fees students paid to access libraries, study rooms, and labs. Students who paid for room and board before on-campus housing and dining closed down are also requesting reimbursements.
Not All Students Are on Board With the Lawsuit
Across the school, the lawsuit has caused a lot of debate. Many of the students agree with the plaintiffs and are considering joining the class action suit themselves. Most students were particularly frustrated by the school's refusal to refund room, board, and facility access fees. They feel that the school left them to shoulder a massive financial burden without offering any potential relief.
However, there are a few students who feel like the lawsuit sends the wrong message. Some students believe that charging full price for tuition is necessary for the good of their beloved school. They point out that the school still has to pay faculty salaries and property maintenance fees regardless of whether learning is online or in-person. At the end of the day, students who do online learning still get the same degree as their peers who graduated before COVID.
Ultimately, it will still be months or even years before the lawsuit is decided either way. The attorneys in the case have requested a trial by jury for their lawsuit. This has the potential to bring more light to the situation, but it can also result in a longer timeline. It may still be quite some time before students in the case discover the outcome.
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