Lafayette, Indiana – On April 9, 2020, Milberg Phillips Grossman LLP (“Milberg”), a member firm of the Coronavirus Litigation Task Force, filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Purdue University students who were forced to leave campus and take online courses due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The lawsuit claims that students were not offered adequate refunds for tuition, housing, meals, and fees and seeks appropriate compensation on a pro-rata basis. It also seeks damages for the difference in value between online and in-person instruction.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, hundreds of colleges and universities across the country have either shut down student housing or strongly suggested that students leave. These same students were only offered online learning for the remainder of the semester. Students are now wondering if they can get refunds for housing, meal plans, and fees for services such as health clinics, recreation centers, and parking. They’re further questioning the value of remote learning compared to classroom teaching.
Some—but not all—schools are offering pro-rated refunds for unused room and board services. In certain cases, schools offering non pro-rated refunds are providing only a minimal amount, given the cost of housing per semester. Purdue University, which for the 2019-2020 academic year charged $10,030 for room and board, is only crediting $750 to students who vacated university housing by March 30. With respect to meal plans, Purdue offers credits for the purchase of future meals, but does not offer full reimbursement.
The use of remote classes ostensibly allows students to continue their education outside of the classroom. But not all students find online learning to be as valuable as on-campus learning. They cite, among other factors, the lack of real-time feedback from in-person peers and teachers. According to Brookings Institute research, taking courses online reduces a student’s grades and increases the probability that they will drop out of school.
“COVID-19 has forced everyone to make sacrifices,” said Marc Grossman, a Managing Partner at Milberg. “While school closures were an appropriate response to the coronavirus, Purdue and other schools should not profit at the expense of their students, who deserve to be fairly refunded for services they paid for but didn’t receive.”
The Coronavirus Task Force was formed to investigate suspected wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its partners collectively have decades of legal experience and billions of dollars in client recoveries. The Task Force is currently investigating other schools and will announce additional lawsuits as the outbreak unfolds.