A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing board for Arizona’s three public universities, because the three schools have refused to refund room, board and campus fees to students who were told to leave campus because of the Wuhan virus. Like virtually all US colleges and universities, Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, moved their classes online for the remainder of the Spring semester. Students who lived on-campus were either told to move out or encouraged to do so. Yet, the lawsuit says, the Arizona Board of Regents has refused to offer refunds for the unused portion of the students’ room and board and their campus fees. The lawsuit seeks payment of the prorated, unused amounts of room and board and fees that the class members paid but were unable to use.
How can the schools maintain that it is ethical for them to do this? I understand that having to refund the money will be disastrous for them, but they are literally keeping advance payments for services that the schools will no longer provide. I expect to see more such suits, and on the basis of law, equity, ethics and common sense, I don’t see how the institutions can prevail in them.
Moreover, these Arizona schools are bargains. Colleges with tuition and fees several times what these schools charge are also refusing to refund student’s money, which in most cases the students obtained through burdensome loans. What’s their justification for holding on to the cash, other than, “Sorry, we need it”?
“While the universities were prudent in closing their campuses and encouraging students to vacate their on-campus housing, it is unconscionable for them to attempt to keep the many thousands of dollars in room and board feeds they collected from each student, even though they have terminated the services that these fees covered,” said Adam Levitt, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. Indeed, ASU and NAU students have not been offered any refunds.
“U of A has refused to return to students the full pro-rated, unused portion of their room and board payments for the semester, and a small housing credit for the next academic year is useless for any student who did not intend to live on-campus during the 2020-2021 academic year,” Levitt said.
I don’t understand why the lawsuit doesn’t demand a partial refund of tuition too. Online courses are a pathetic substitute for in-person classes; a lot of data indicates that they are far less effective as a learning process. Moreover, the college experience includes a lot more than classes; I would argue that classes are a small part of colleges’ value. When I was in my freshman year, our school was roiled by riots, boycotts, demonstrations and as a result, constant debates long into the night. I learned at least as much in those weeks with no classes as I did when they resumed.
Are not extracurricular activities also a major part of what tuition pays for? They certainly were for me: everything I learned about management, as I have told many employers and potential employers, I learned from theater, and I began my tutelage in that craft in college.
So-called higher learning is a dubious product already, with costs inflated to obscene levels by hype and a lack of serious standards. Now administrators are claiming that the price is still justified when the product has been diminished, the dorms can’t be used, and the vital supplementary benefits are unavailable.
This can’t stand. It is self-evidently unjust.
Pointer: Tax Prof Blog