By Ainsley Ash
MAIN PHOTO: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools have sent students home to complete their semester online. Many students say this is not what they signed up for and want back some of their money. SOURCE: Edward Jenner on Pexels
Students in the US are suing universities that have closed their doors and moved classes online due to the coronavirus.
The online experience, they argue, is not what they paid for, and they want their money back.
Students at Drexel University and the University of Miami have filed a class action lawsuit. They say that they should be reimbursed for the fees they have paid which are normally used to fund services such as computer labs, libraries, and social networking events, all of which the students can no longer receive.
A law firm based in South Carolina, the Anastopoulo Law Firm, is representing the Drexel students as well as students in a similar case against the University of Colorado. It is investigating “dozens” of other potential cases, a lawyer from the law firm told Inside Higher Ed. The firm has created a website, collegerefund2020.com where students can lodge their cases.
At the University of Chicago, a private research university, students have organized a petition to ask for a drop in tuition fees for the final quarter of the 2019-2020 school year. Their campaign, called “UChicago for Fair Tuition” has drawn over 1,700 student signatures. According to a survey conducted by the U.S. News and World Report, the university is the second most expensive U.S. college with $59,298 in tuition and fees.
“The world-class education that consists in having opportunities to work and interact with academics and peers (not to mention the vast numbers of innovators, creators, doctors, organizers, and more that congregate on our campus) will no longer be provided,” the petition to the administration states.
The campaign statement added that “families that rely on small business, service-industry and other precarious work will be hit far harder than a school with a multibillion-dollar endowment”.
The campaign is not supported by all at the campuses. Zarek Drozda, a UChicago employee and recent graduate wrote an article for The Chicago Maroon, the university’s student newspaper urging campaigners to consider the “unintended impacts of such a reduction.”
“Such a significant loss in tuition payments will likely mean less money for the most financially at-risk employees: dining hall, cleaning, and other service staff. It will mean less money to support research and grants, including vital research on COVID-19”, Drozda wrote in the student publication.
Colleges and universities are taking substantial financial hits because of Covid-19.
Even if campuses reopen in the fall, the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, both large public universities research universities, expect to lose $100 million, according to the Associated Press.
Colleges and universities across the U.S. are set to receive approximately $14 billion dollars in grants from the federal stimulus package passed last month. Of this, $6 billion is to be used as emergency cash grants for students affected by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Colleges fear the lasting financial impact of the coronavirus. Colleges worry that students will not return to school in the fall, as they may be unable to afford tuition. For international students, the cost of studying abroad may not be feasible. And with many athletic seasons cut short, revenue from sporting events is expected to fall.