NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The parent of a Rutgers student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the university seeking repayment for tuition and other costs Rutgers is withholding in violation of state law, the suit alleges.
The parent, who is represented by the Seattle-based firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is not identified in the lawsuit that was filed Wednesday in Middlesex County Superior Court.
The suit 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 in March and switching to online distance learning in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The suit suggests that students should be charged the per credit hour rate for regularly online courses rather than in-class rate.
According to the lawsuit, out-of-state residents pay $942 per credit hour for the undergraduate business at its Camden School of Business, while out-of-state students pay $550 per credit hour for a fully online bachelor’s degree program at that school.
The law firm representing the anonymous Rutgers parent has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Vanderbilt, Brown, Duke, Emory, George Washington, the University of Southern California 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.”
The class-action lawsuit seeks to represent anyone who paid tuition and other fees for Rutgers’ spring semester, calls into question the effectiveness of distance learning, referring to it as “something far less.”
According to the suit, “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.”
According to the suit, the shift to online instruction affected the depth to which the plaintiff’s daughter was taught the material compared with an in-person experience.” The suit alleges that links sent by professors were often 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 the necessary information from the lectures.
A Rutgers spokesperson said that refunds for housing, dining and parking charges to students have been distributed. The adjustments were calculated on a prorated basis beginning on March 23, the first day following spring break and ending May 16, the required move-out date at the university.
In response to TAPinto New Brunswick’s other questions, the spokesperson said, “We don’t comment on pending litigation.”