Universities Face Restitution Claims from Students

James Hatton | Legal Staff Writer & Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel


On April 23, 2020, two similar, but separate class action lawsuits were filed in the Southern District of New York and Northern District of New York by students at Columbia University and Cornell University, respectively, alleging that the Ivy League universities failed to reimburse students for tuition, fees and other costs, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the transition to an online format. 

In both class action suits, the plaintiffs claim that their schools closed campuses, evicted students and transitioned all classes to an online format in order to minimize contact in an effort to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While the students agree that switching to an online format was prudent in this situation, they claim that the universities have refused to provide reimbursement for tuition, fees and other costs, for services no longer provided upon the closure of campuses and discontinuation of in-person classes. The actions generally seek refunds on a pro-rata basis, rather than a specific dollar amount.

The students further argued that the online learning options are subpar in every aspect, pointing to a general lack of facilities, materials and access to faculty members. While learning from home offers students the ease of being able to complete coursework on their own time, it has deprived them the opportunity for face-to-face interaction and real-time collaborative learning with direct feedback and critique from educators.

These proposed cases add to additional claims made by students demanding proper restitution against Pace University, Michigan State, the University of Miami and Drexel University.

The cases are: Student A v. The Board of Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, Case No.: 1:20-cv-03208, and Xaviera Marbury v. Pace University, Case No.: 1:20-cv-03210, which are both in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York; and

Olivia Haynie v. Cornell University, Case No.: 5:00-at-99999, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.Blog Subscription

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