Anonymous John Doe brings class-action lawsuit on behalf of all tuition payers seeking reimbursement for spring 2020 semester
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#Rutgers–An anonymous parent of a Rutgers University student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the school seeking repayment for tuition and other costs the suit says Rutgers is withholding in violation of New Jersey state law, amid the COVID-19-related campus closure, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
The lawsuit filed May 20, 2020, in New Jersey superior court in Middlesex County accuses the university of breach of contract, unjust enrichment and conversion for “continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students” despite sending students home and closing campus due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The suit also highlights the difference in cost per credit hour between what Rutgers continued to charge for the spring 2020 semester, which was switched to online-only access, compared to its regularly online courses: “…out-of-state residents pay $942 per credit hour for the undergraduate business courses at its Camden School of Business, whereas out-of-state students pay just $550 per credit hour for a fully online bachelor’s degree program at that school.”
The law firm representing the anonymous parents of a Rutgers University student has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brown University, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis for failure to repay tuition-payers for their losses during the spring 2020 semester, abruptly cut short and altered due to COVID-19.
“We understand that universities have been put under unforeseen circumstances and had to act quickly in the face of the pandemic, but we also believe that is no excuse to ignore the rights of students and others paying for access to campus amenities, in-person education and all the other benefits commonly afforded to them in a typical semester,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action.
“Now more than ever, those paying tens of thousands of dollars in semester expenses they did not receive deserve a sense of financial security, and we intend to fight for the rights of those paying Rutgers for something they did not receive,” Berman added.
Rutgers Facing Class Action
The class-action lawsuit lobbed at Rutgers University seeks to represent anyone paying tuition and other fees for Rutgers’ spring 2020 semester and says, “students enrolled and paid Defendant for a comprehensive academic experience, Defendant instead offers Plaintiff and the Class Members something far less: a limited online experience presented by Google or Zoom, void of face-to-face faculty and peer interaction, separated from program resources, and barred from facilities vital to study.”
“What Rutgers is offering is not what students or parents paid for,” Berman said. The lawsuit adds that Rutgers’ library recently saw more than 2.6 million visits over one school year, and the university has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into its on-campus resources and research facilities.
“While Plaintiff’s daughter could have obtained her degree online, Plaintiff’s daughter specifically selected an in-person, in-class experience for the variety of educational experiences and benefits that only an in-person program can deliver, including Rutgers’ supportive environment,” the lawsuit states.
The suit explains the difficulties faced by the plaintiff’s daughter: “The shift to online instruction affected the depth to which Plaintiff’s daughter was taught the material compared to an in-person experience. Often links sent by professors were not compatible with her computer and she missed opportunities to view videos and listen to audio lectures that were necessary for her learning. Instead, she was only able to review the bullet-point lecture slides and missed a lot of necessary information from the lectures.”
According to the lawsuit, Rutgers had a record-breaking fundraising year with more than 48,500 donors contributing $250.9 million. Recently, Rutgers received an estimated $54.16 million from the Federal Government as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
Other Affected Universities
Hagens Berman is investigating the rights of those who are currently paying for room and board, and/or tuition at all U.S. colleges and universities that have been forced to close due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This may include parents, guardians or college students who are paying for their own costs of college.
Despite orders from colleges and universities sending home students and closing campuses, these institutions of higher learning continue to charge for tuition and room and board. Collectively, these institutions are continuing to receive millions from students despite their inability to continue school as normal, or occupy campus buildings and dorms.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.