The students, who are represented by the Fink Bressack law firm, are requesting that the University be required to issue a partial refund of tuition, along with prorated refunds for prepaid room and board expenses and other fees for University services that will not be provided.
“These students are not objecting to the short term move to online classes or to leaving university housing. They object to paying for the classes they are not getting and paying room and board when they no longer live on campus” said David Fink, the managing partner of Fink Bressack. The firm is also representing students in similar lawsuits against the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
After shifting to online only courses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan State University has refused to offer any tuition refund to students.
Nearly half the Spring 2020 semester remained when Michigan State cancelled all in-person instruction and moved all courses to online platforms in March 2020. Tuition for the Spring semester at MSU was approximately $7,262 for Michigan residents and almost $20,000 for non-Michigan residents. Michigan State’s failure to issue tuition refunds is inconsistent with the significant cost differences between online instruction and teaching provided in an in-person setting. Additionally, Michigan State’s refusal to issue tuition refunds fails to acknowledge the significant differences in value between in-person and online classes.
“Many of these students have taken out substantial loans to pay the high costs of an on-campus education. Without a full refund, they will be paying interest for something they did not receive,” said Fink.
Citing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, in a March 11, 2020 letter, Michigan State encouraged all students who could return to their permanent residence to move out of their University housing. The school subsequently announced that students who moved out of their on-campus housing no later than April 12 would be eligible for a $1,120 credit, which includes room and board costs.
The room and board fees for the Spring 2020 semester at Michigan State start at $5,261, so the cost incurred for losing roughly 40% of the semester exceeds $2,100. The $1,120 credit being offered by the school does not come close to a full prorated refund for the seven weeks of housing and meals that students forfeited when they were required to leave campus.
“While MSU and other schools are understandably trying to address a difficult financial situation, the lawsuit seeks to protect those who can least afford to bear this cost – the students,” said Fink. “This case is about fairness. The question is who should bear the cost of this unfortunate situation—the students or the university? When a landlord tells a tenant to leave the premises, should the tenant still pay rent? When a university stops providing meals to its students, is it fair to continue to charge for those meals? Is it fair to charge full tuition, while providing only online classes?”
Fink Bressack is one of Michigan’s leading class action law firms.