A proposed class action claims The Utah System of Higher Education’s eight public universities have failed to provide refunds for tuition, housing costs and other fees charged to students during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the case, the universities—Dixie State University, Salt Lake Community College, Southern Utah University, Snow College, University of Utah, Utah State University, Utah Valley University and Weber State University—failed during the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters to provide the in-person education and services for which students paid after transitioning to remote learning due to the pandemic. The suit contests that despite depriving students of access to the contracted-for facilities and services, the defendant has nevertheless refused to issue refunds for tuition and fees.
The lawsuit alleges the schools’ retention of students’ tuitions and fees while failing to provide the services for which they were paid amounts to both an unlawful taking and breach of contract. The complaint argues that although some students were provided with a refund for housing costs if they moved out prior to a “strict move out date,” those who moved out after the deadline should also be entitled to just compensation for the Utah System of Higher Education’s retention of housing fees as it canceled their contractual right to housing.
“In short,” the filing says, “as to tuition, Plaintiffs and the members of the Class have paid tuition for an in-person education and education experience, with all the appurtenant benefits offered as a result, and were provided a materially different and less valuable product, which constitutes a breach of the contract entered into by Plaintiffs and the Class with the Universities.”
According to the complaint, the Utah System of Higher Education’s member schools canceled in-person classes and closed on-campus facilities at various times in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, classes for the Summer 2020 term were also offered in a remote format with no in-person instruction, the suit states.
The lawsuit claims, however, that students paid tuition and fees for the Spring and Summer 2020 semesters in exchange for in-person learning and access to the schools’ facilities as advertised on their websites and in marketing materials. Per the suit, in-person dialogue, feedback, and critique and access to the various campus activities and facilities offered by each school were bargained-for services for which students specifically paid. Nevertheless, the defendant has refused to provide refunds for portions of students’ tuitions and fees, according to the suit.
The defendant’s failure to provide contracted-for services or refund portions of students’ tuition and fees amounts to a taking without just compensation as prohibited by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the case contends
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone who paid tuition, housing fees and/or mandatory fees for a student to attend in-person classes during the Spring 2020 or Summer 2020 semesters at one of the defendant’s universities where the student’s classes were moved to online learning.
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