Students at Western Michigan University File Lawsuit Over Covid-19 Refund Policies for Tuition, Fees, Room and Board

A Western Michigan University (WMU) student filed a class action lawsuit recently in response to the University’s refusal to issue appropriate refunds after students were forced to leave on-campus housing and all in-person classes were cancelled in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bloomfield Hills and Detroit-based law firm Fink Bressack is representing the proposed class of students in the litigation. The lawsuit claims that WMU, Michigan’s fifth-largest university, has unfairly refused to issue satisfactory refunds for housing, meals, tuition and other fees which students prepaid for services the University is not currently providing.

“These students are not objecting to the shift to online classes or to leaving university housing. They do 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.

Fink Bressack is also representing students at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Central Michigan University, Lake Superior State University and the University of Toledo in similar lawsuits against those schools.

WMU Fails to Issue Partial Tuition Refund after Moving All Classes Online

With a global pandemic looming, Western Michigan officials cancelled all in-person classroom instruction and transitioned to online courses only. Despite these significant changes, the University has not issued refunds for tuition.

WMU students were at the approximate midway point of their Spring 2020 semester when the school cancelled in-person classes on March 11. Tuition for the semester started at approximately $6,047 for in-state residents and just under $7,559 for out-of-state residents. The University’s failure to issue tuition refunds is inconsistent with the significant cost differences between online instruction and teaching provided in an in-person setting. More importantly, the University’s decision does not factor in the significant differences in value between in-person and online classes.

“Many of these students and their families have taken out considerable loans to pay the high costs of an on-campus education. To add insult to injury, without a full refund, they will be paying interest for something they did not receive,” said Fink.

WMU’s Room and Board Credit Leave Students with Significant Financial Losses

A March 20 letter from WMU notified students that the University was closing residence halls and that, unless there were extenuating circumstances, students were required to leave their University housing. The school is offering a $1,000 room and board credit to students who moved out of their University housing by March 24.

Room and board fees for Western Michigan’s Spring 2020 semester started at approximately $5,018. The University’s $1,000 credit, which is intended to compensate students for room and board costs, does not provide a full refund for the roughly six weeks of housing and meals costs that students lost when they were forced to vacate their University housing.

Refunding Tuition, Fees and Payments for Room and Board is about Fairness

“While Western Michigan University and all universities 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. 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?”

If you are a college student, or paid or financed the education of a college student, and you believe you have not received an appropriate refund for tuition, housing, meals or fees lost because of COVID-19, contact Fink Bressack at contact@finkbressack.com or via phone at (248) 971-2500.

Fink Bressack is one of Michigan’s leading class action law firms.