College Students Demand COVID-19 Refunds


Students in Crisis

College students are in a tailspin. Initially, not having to attend school for a week or two, and forgoing studying, papers, exams, and classes, probably sounded like it would be a nice break. Some students may likely even hoped and prayed for school cancellation. However, as the novelty of not having to attend school has worn off, and students are receiving all instruction over a screen, with little person to person contact, the new reality doesn’t match the fantasy created by some. Most school students are not only losing valuable in-person time with teachers, but also losing the social and emotional development, and fun, gleaned from spending time with peers.

Higher Education Online

Colleges and universities scrambled to have online learning up and running when it became apparent that in-person classes would not occur. Undoubtedly, in-person instruction, in addition to bountiful resources and facilities, such as science labs, libraries, student unions, college clubs, and extracurricular activities, provide a much richer educational experience for students. Some students may thrive in an online setting as they continue to learn and acquire the skills necessary to be successful in the future, while continuing to earn credits toward a degree. However, overall, many find the online experience severely lacking when compared to the in-person alternative.

Therefore, it may be time to ask some tough questions, such as the following:

  • Will a degree be as desirable to hiring managers when core classes were taken pass/fail?
  • Is the school delivering on its promise to properly educate the child, and deliver a rigorous course of study?
  • Is the extremely high price tag for higher education fair, without reduction, given the change in circumstances? Many students and parents are currently seeking at least a partial refund of tuition payments.
  • Should out of state students continue to pay a healthy premium over in-state students, when all are taking classes online?

Students Respond

At least five institutions of higher learning are facing class-action lawsuits from students who are seeking refunds for spring semester tuition and various fees. More suits are likely to follow. The bases for the lawsuits mainly lie in “breach of contract,” and allegations that the students are not receiving the education paid for. For instance, when comparing college online and in-person classes, one will find huge cost differences, as online degree programs are often 40% less expensive.

Moreover, it seems patently unfair that universities and colleges, which are often sitting on billions of dollars in endowments, seemingly tailor-made to be used for unforeseen circumstances such as are currently occurring, are not lowering the cost of tuition during this pandemic onto students and their families, despite their decrease in costs of doing business. The billions of dollars in endowment funds at some institutions is staggering.

Tuition Refunds

Schools should reimburse for room and board, meals, student union fees, and other obvious services not being used by students while at home. However, in addition to a refund for the such expenses, shouldn’t a portion of tuition be refunded?

Scott Bonebrake practices law in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for 25 years. Please feel free to contact Scott if you have any legal questions. You can reach Scott at 610-892-7700, or at