The lawsuit says the university hasn’t offered pro-rata refunds on room and board.
Students at Michigan State University has filed a lawsuit against the school, demanding refunds on tuition, room and board.
“Despite the cancellation of live-in-person instruction, the constructive eviction of students at the University for the remainder of the semester, and the cessation of all campus activities for at least the same time period, the University has not offered adequate refunds of tuition, room and board, and fees paid to cover the cost of certain on-campus services which will no longer be available to students,” says the lawsuit, filed by New York-headquartered Milberg Phillips Grossman LLP.
Michigan State, like most other schools in the region, moved all its undergraduate courses online in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The university’s decision to transition to virtual learning was made mid-March by MSU President Samuel L. Stanley, with about half the academic semester still remaining. He also asked students living on-campus to return home if and whenever possible.
MLive.com notes that Michigan State, a public university, charges upwards of $10,522 for two semesters’ worth of room and board. President Stanley offered a $1,120 refund on housing to students willing to leave the dorms by April 12th.
However, the lawsuit says the $1,120 credit is less than half the pro-rata on housing. It also alleges that online learning isn’t worth the same as traditional, in-person teaching.
“Michigan State’s decision to end classes is understandable from a public health perspective, but the University’s refund policy is unfair to students,” Milberg partner Glenn Phillips said in a statement. “Students paid for an on-campus experience and received an off-campus experience for one-quarter of the academic year, which amounts to an educational bait-and-switch.”
Emily Gerkin Guerrant, a spokesperson for the university, said the school has yet to be served the suit and won’t comment on pending litigation. Guerrant did say that, despite the challenges posed by novel coronavirus, “MSU is delivering what students pay for: courses taught by highly qualified faculty, tutoring services, faculty office hours, academic advising, financial aid and access to our libraries.”
Guerrant added that the university has, in fact, offered prorations for on-campus expenses, including housing, meal plans, gym memberships, and parking passes.
“But it is important to remember that while the university incurred many additional costs associated with rapidly transitioning to distanced learning—including investing in new hardware, software, 24/7 IT and help desk services and new course materials—we have maintained our commitment to providing meaningful and robust learning experiences at no additional cos to our Spartans,” she said.
Milberg Phillips Grossman LLP, adds MLive.com, is part of the Coronavirus Litigation Task Force—a network of law firms formed in March, which investigate alleged wrongdoing amidst the outbreak. The firm filed a similar lawsuit against Purdue University earlier this month.