A proposed class action claims Emory University owes refunds for part of the COVID-19-shortened Spring 2020 semester during which students were forced to leave campus and transition to an online learning environment.
The lawsuit alleges the university has failed to offer full prorated refunds even though the education provided by Emory since classes moved online is of a lower quality and without the same resources as the in-person experience paid for through tuition and fees.
“Despite sending students home and closing its campuses, Defendant continues to charge for tuition, fees, and/or room and board as if nothing has changed,” the complaint says.
According to the 35-page lawsuit, the Atlanta-based school advertised that its students would be provided with all the benefits of a small campus, including personal educational experience, direct interaction with faculty and students, leadership opportunities, and participation in student activities, “all in a tight-knit community setting.”
When students were asked to return home in mid-March, however, access to the resources and services for which they paid thousands of dollars in tuition and fees was no longer provided by the university, the lawsuit states.
“So while students enrolled and paid Defendant for a comprehensive academic experience, Defendant instead offers Plaintiff and the Class Members something far less: a limited online experience presented by Google or Zoom, void of face-to-face faculty and peer interaction, separated from program resources, and barred from facilities vital to study,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiff and the Class Members did not bargain for such an experience.”
The lawsuit claims that although Emory is no longer providing the level of education paid for through tuition and fees, the university has offered only minimal refunds that fail to fully reimburse students for their losses. According to the plaintiff, the prorated period for which students have been refunded begins on March 23, while most students were asked to leave and did leave the school’s several campuses well before that date.
Per the plaintiff, Emory announced on March 11 that spring break would be extended and that students should collect their belongings and move out of their residences before March 22.
The plaintiff adds that her meal plan was refunded only “at a 40% basis.”
The case emphasizes that while the reasons for closing campus and transitioning to online classes were justified, students have suffered “significant loss” as a result.
“[S]tudents should not be forced to pay for services they cannot use,” the complaint states.