Pace University has joined the list of schools facing proposed class action litigation over their alleged refusal to issue refunds to students who were forced off campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit alleges that while Pace’s early-March decision to move all classes online and send students home for the rest of the semester was the right thing to do in light of the ongoing pandemic, those at the school’s two New York campuses have effectively been robbed of the on-campus experience for which they’ve already paid tuition and fees.
According to the case, Pace has refused to issue refunds—or has provided only “inadequate and/or arbitrary” reimbursement—for the loss of in-person instruction; housing; meals; access to campus facilities such as computer labs, libraries, athletic facilities, and health centers; extracurricular activities; mentorship opportunities; and various other benefits that were advertised to students and for which they paid thousands out-of-pocket or through student aid.
The suit claims that in addition to tuition payments, students specifically paid “general,” “activity,” “health center,” and “technology” fees meant to cover various resources and services at the school that are no longer available due to the pandemic. As of the date the complaint was filed, Pace has allegedly failed to refund both tuition and mandatory fees.
Further still, the case takes issue with Pace’s offers to reimburse students’ housing costs. While the school plans to offer $2,000 to those who lived on its New York City campus and $1,600 to those who lived on its Westchester campus, the case, noting that the average housing cost for each campus eclipses $10,000 and $8,000, respectively, claims the refunds are “arbitrary and inadequate” given they amount to roughly 20 percent of the costs already paid by students who’ve been deprived of close to 50 percent of their on-campus housing time.
According to the suit, Pace has offered no explanation for how the refund offers were calculated and has refused to issue “any refund whatsoever” for meal plans.
The lawsuit argues that Pace’s refusal to issue refunds is especially egregious considering the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has granted $14 billion to colleges and universities and requires the schools to distribute at least half of the funds to students in the form of financial aid grants for “expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19.”
The plaintiff, a full-time undergraduate student, says she moved off campus on March 11 for spring break after Pace announced the day before that all classes would be moved online as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While the plaintiff was gone, Pace made another announcement on March 18 in which the university encouraged students to move out of their residence halls or remain home if they had already left for spring break, the suit says. The school also informed students in the same announcement that it was “analyzing options for issuing refunds or credits where appropriate,” the case notes.
The plaintiff says she has not returned to campus since moving out on March 11 and was not even permitted to return to her dorm room after spring break to retrieve her belongings.