When students sign up to attend distance learning and online universities, they do so knowing that they will not actually be sitting in university classrooms, on college campuses, and experiencing “college life.” Their professors are faces on a screen. Their lessons are sounds coming from their speakers. Their classmates may be in their same city or they may be thousands of miles away. It is both the blessing and the curse of the internet and what it makes available to us.
What happens, however, when students sign up and pay for on-campus classes that have been turned into online learning activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Should there be a difference in the tuition paid when the student will not be on campus grounds with access to other campus resources?
A group of students at Miami and Drexel universities believe so, and they’ve come together to file a class-action lawsuit arguing that the shift to online learning deprives them of computer labs, campus libraries, networking opportunities, and other benefits that were advertised to them that they will not be able to enjoy.
In addition, the students are concerned with the overall impact to the value of their degrees when issued based on online pass/fail grading versus a more stringent in-person academic regimen.
Schools, while eventually realizing that they were going to need to refund various fees as well as room and board expenses, have not been nearly as quick to begin offering tuition refunds based on their argument that they are still giving the students the education, instruction, and knowledge that their tuition paid for – it is just being provided in a different way.
The class-action alleges breach of contract and unjust enrichment by the schools and the students are seeking unspecified damages, fees, and costs.