Manhattanville College faces a proposed class action that claims the school has refused to issue acceptable refunds, or has offered inadequate and/or arbitrary reimbursements, despite failing to provide the educational experience and services paid for by students for the Spring 2020 semester disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
After the defendant closed its Purchase, New York campus in late March 2020 and transitioned all classes to an online format, students were robbed of the in-person experience they sought in choosing to enroll in Manhattanville’s “onsite” course options, the 28-page case alleges. The lawsuit says tuition paid for the school’s on-campus programs was meant to cover “benefits and services above and beyond basic academic instruction,” including face-to-face interaction with peers and faculty; access to campus facilities, such as computer labs, study rooms, laboratories and libraries; student governance, unions, activities and sports; exposure to a diverse community; social development and independence; hands-on learning and experimentation; and networking and mentorship opportunities.
Moreover, students who enrolled in Manhattanville’s on-campus programs were also required to pay mandatory fees, including a $725 “Comprehensive Fee” meant to cover “all the resources available to on-campus students, such as student activities, the library, gym, common areas, health services, and orientation,” according to the complaint.
The case claims that soon after Manhattanville instructed its students to return home, the school issued a “Credits/Refunds” message in which it stated that all full-time undergrads would receive a $350 fall semester credit as reimbursement for a portion of the fees paid for the Spring 2020 semester. The notice added that students who paid for room and board and were forced to leave campus would receive an additional $1,500.00 fall semester credit, according to the suit. Graduating seniors with no outstanding balance were to be mailed a refund check by the end of May, the complaint says.
As the case tells it, Manhattanville did not follow through to the extent it should have.
“Unfortunately, appropriate refunds and credits were never issued,” the complaint states, characterizing the refund policy as “arbitrary and wholly inadequate” while alleging Manhattanville has refused and continues to refuse to offer “an appropriate refund” for tuition that had already been paid.
The plaintiff, who completed his freshman year at Manhattanville, says that as a result of the school’s decision to shut down campus, he has decided not to return for his sophomore year. Upon inquiring about the refund offered for fees and on-campus housing costs, the plaintiff was allegedly told that he was not eligible for “any refund whatsoever” since he was not returning to Manhattanville.
Although the college was allocated more than $1.72 million in federal stimulus funds under the CARES Act, the school has set aside only $861,500—the bare minimum required by law—to distribute to students, “presumably intending to retain the remaining $861.5 thousand for itself,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit against Manhattanville adds to an ongoing trend of litigation against a laundry list of colleges and universities nationwide over their apparent refusal to issue appropriate refunds in the wake of semester disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.