Vanderbilt University has joined the ranks of colleges and universities facing proposed class action lawsuits over their alleged refusal to refund students for the COVID-19-shortened Spring 2020 semester.
The plaintiff, a pseudonymous freshman, claims the education he’s received since being forced to vacate the school’s Nashville campus in March and transition to online learning has been “far less” than the “comprehensive academic experience” for which he paid tuition and fees. According to the case, students who have been asked to leave the school as a result of the coronavirus crisis have been robbed of the in-person instruction, access to resources and facilities, and services that were advertised to them prior to their enrollment in Vanderbilt.
The lawsuit claims that despite the school’s inability to provide the resources and services for which students have already paid, Vanderbilt has refused to issue appropriate refunds for tuition and fees. The case alleges the university has refused to refund the costs of tuition and instead offered only “minimal adjustments” for housing and meal plans. Per the suit, Vanderbilt’s “minimal adjustments” fail to reimburse students for the full amount of services they cannot use since vacating their dorms by March 15.
According to the complaint, Vanderbilt will provide $1,380 in housing adjustments to students who left by March 17, $690 to students who left between March 18 and 29, and no reimbursement for students who left on March 30 or later.
Similarly, the school allegedly announced various meal plan adjustments that line up with the above timelines. As stated in the case, the defendant will provide:
“$677 for the 21-meal plan, $657 for the 18-meal plan, $578 for the 14-meal plan, and $353 for the 8-meal plan plus any unused Meal Money in the student’s account if the student left by March 17, 2020;
half of the adjustments listed above plus any unused Meal Money in the student’s account if the student left between March 18–29, 2020; and
no dining adjustment or unused Meal Money if the student left campus March 30, 2020 or later.”
Citing a Change.org petition that has nearly 900 signatures as of April 28, the lawsuit argues Vanderbilt students are entitled to at least a partial refund for the thousands they paid in tuition and fees for the Spring 2020 semester. Further, the lawsuit points out that although the school has received $2.8 million as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, “only some students with the greatest identified financial need” will receive $1,100 each from the funds.
The case looks to represent anyone enrolled at Vanderbilt for the Spring 2020 term who paid the defendant, “in whole or in part,” tuition, fees, and/or room and board but were denied access to in-person instruction and/or campus facilities.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.