Loyola University Chicago faces a proposed class action over its alleged refusal to refund tuition and fees after switching to online classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plaintiff, the mother of an undergraduate student, claims the online education provided by the university, coupled with the lack of access to campus facilities and resources, is “nowhere close in quality” to the in-person educational experience for which tuition and fees were paid. Despite failing to provide the services and instruction for which students contracted and paid, Loyola has refused to issue refunds for tuition and has offered only insufficient reimbursement for some fees, the suit says.
According to the case, Loyola announced on March 12 that all in-person classes would be suspended effective March 13 and all residential students were expected to leave the school’s two Chicago campuses by March 19. Although the university would remain open, nearly every building on campus, including residence halls, was closed by March 20, the case states.
The lawsuit alleges that the online classes provided for the second half of the spring semester were “a shadow of the in-person instruction” for which students and their families paid and expected to receive. Not only was Loyola unprepared to successfully deliver its programs in an online format, but the value of proposed class members’ educations was drastically diminished, the suit says, noting the more than 265-percent price difference between the school’s online programs offered before the pandemic and the cost of in-person tuition.
The lawsuit further points out that students forced to endure the “haphazard shift” to online learning in truth received far less than those who were already enrolled in online classes specifically designed for virtual delivery.
Moreover, while students were promised access to “a wide range of on-campus services and benefits,” neither were provided by Loyola after the school effectively shut down, per the case.
“Essentially, Plaintiff and Class members paid Defendant for access to buildings and facilities that students were not permitted to enter, equipment and technology that they could not use, internships in which they could not participate, and much more,” the complaint states. “Additionally, Plaintiff and Class members paid Defendant for a quality of instruction, which, due to the abrupt shift to online learning, Defendant did not deliver.”
According to the lawsuit, the only refunds Loyola has offered have come in the form of partial refunds for room and board and a partial credit for the student development fee. The suit argues, however, that Loyola students “lost out on much more” than the events and clubs funded by this mandatory fee.
The defendant’s actions are especially egregious considering the school reportedly received through the CARES Act more than $10 million in federal aid, half of which was mandated to help students in need of financial assistance, the lawsuit alleges. By refusing to issue refunds, Loyola has essentially forced students and their families to “bear the financial brunt” of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case argues.
The lawsuit joins a growing trend of cases filed against universities and schools over their apparent refusal to issue refunds in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.