Brandeis student sues university for tuition, room and board and other costs lost during campus closure
A class-action lawsuit filed today against Brandeis University by a student seeks repayment for tuition and other costs amid the outbreak of COVID-19 and related campus closure, which the suit says ushered in an inferior experience for students, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
"While Plaintiff could have obtained his degree online, Plaintiff enrolled at Brandeis University to obtain the full experience of live, in-person courses and direct interactions with instructors and students, facilitated by small class sizes," the lawsuit states. "So while 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. Plaintiff and the Class Members did not bargain for such an experience."
The law firm representing the Brandeis University student has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brown University, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Rutgers University, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis, and is investigating others.
Lawsuit: Brandeis Online Transition "Disruptive and Ineffective"
The class action filed May 28, 2020, in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts 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, and seeks to represent anyone who paid those costs at Brandeis for the spring 2020 semester.
The lawsuit against Brandeis says the suit’s plaintiff, a resident of Massachusetts, experienced the university’s transition to online class as "disruptive and ineffective," stating that one professor cancelled a week of classes to learn how to use online platforms and did not reschedule. Another professor did not conduct any online lectures and only provided Powerpoint slides. Other professors continuously revised the syllabus making it difficult for students to understand expectations and do their best work, according to the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, on a per course basis, Brandeis charged undergraduate students at $6,918 ($1,729 per credit, per term) for the spring 2020 semester.
"What Brandeis students are reporting amid the campus closure and transition to online courses pales in comparison to the education they paid for," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action. "Students did not enroll at Brandeis to click through PowerPoint slides and waste their student loans on cancelled classes and absentee coursework."
The suit highlights the lack of resources to students amid the closure, including barred access to the writing center, academic offices, advisors, libraries, and art studios. "Defendant effectively cancelled Plaintiff’s art course after Defendant decided to revoke access to the art studio, providing students no opportunity to retrieve their work. Plaintiff could not complete the artwork he started and Defendant did not provide a feasible way for students to complete the course online. Defendant has yet to provide access for Plaintiff to collect his work from the studio," the lawsuit states.
The suit also calls out that Brandeis is a residential university where 78 percent of students live on campus all four years, and touts the benefits of its "experiential learning."
According to the lawsuit, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, Brandeis’ endowment had an approximate value of $1.074 billion. For the spring 2020 term, undergraduate students enrolled at Brandeis paid $28,690 for undergraduate tuition and $956 in undergraduate fees. Total charges for a standard residence hall room (double-occupancy) and a 12-meal per week board contract for the 2019–2020 academic year cost students $7,945.
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.