Florida Southern College has been named in a proposed class action that seeks tuition and fee refunds for the COVID-19-shortened Spring 2020 semester.
Filed June 5, the 15-page lawsuit claims the online learning options offered to students after the defendant’s Lakeland campus was forced to shut down in mid-March were “subpar in practically every aspect” to the in-person education for which they bargained. Though students have been deprived of the opportunity for collaborative learning and “in-person dialogue, feedback, and critique,” among numerous other educational benefits, the school has nevertheless refused to issue refunds for tuition and fees paid for the semester held partially online, the case alleges.
According to the case, students and their families paid thousands to attend the private college on an in-person basis. In exchange for tuition and fees, students were promised upon enrollment face-to-face interaction with peers and faculty; access to libraries, laboratories, computer labs and study rooms; student groups and extra-curricular activities; hands-on learning and experimentation; and networking and mentorship opportunities, the suit says.
After the school suspended in-person classes on March 12, Florida Southern announced on March 18 that classes would be held remotely for the remainder of the semester, according to the lawsuit. Thereafter, students were provided with an educational experience that is “not even remotely worth the amount charged” for the Spring 2020 semester, the plaintiff contests.
The lawsuit charges that FSC President Anne B. Kerr’s regret “that [students] are being asked to make these difficult adjustments during spring semester[,]” as stated in her March 18 email, is “an empty platitude” that “comes as no consolation” to proposed class members given the school has refused to issue refunds for tuition and fees.
Echoing dozens of lawsuits filed against colleges and universities nationwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case looks to recover pro-rated tuition and fee refunds proportionate to the amount of time remaining in the Spring 2020 semester when classes were moved online and campus services were no longer provided.
“Even if Defendant claims it did not have a choice in cancelling in-person classes, it nevertheless has improperly retained funds for services it is not providing,” the case summarizes.
Originally filed in New York’s Southern District Court, the lawsuit has been removed to U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
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