University of Michigan students, represented by the Bloomfield Hills and Detroit-based law firm Fink Bressack, filed a class action lawsuit against the school last week in response to the University’s refusal to issue adequate refunds after students were sent home in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students initiated the lawsuit after the University failed to issue prorated refunds for tuition, room and board and other fees which students prepaid for the Winter 2020 academic semester.
“These students do not object to the shift to online classes and 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.
Fink Bressack is also representing students at Michigan State University and Wayne State University in similar lawsuits.
After suspending in-person classroom education and shifting to online teaching, the University has stated that it will not issue any tuition refunds.
Half of the Winter 2020 semester remained when the University cancelled in-person classes in March 2020. Tuition for the semester was approximately $7,800 for Michigan residents and $25,600 for non-Michigan residents. The University’s refusal 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 ignores the significant differences in value between in-person and online classes.
“Many of these students and their families have taken out 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.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 17, 2020, the University sent a letter to students and their parents stating that all students who were able to do so should move out of their on-campus housing and return to their place of permanent residence. Days later, the school announced that it was offering a $1,200 credit to students who vacated their University housing by 5pm on March 25.
The room and board fees for the Winter 2020 semester at Michigan for one of the named plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit were $7,090; the other plaintiff paid $6,115. The University’s $1,200 credit, which is a combined credit for housing and meal plan costs, does not come close to a full prorated refund for the six weeks of housing and meals costs that students forfeited when they were required to move out of their University housing.
“While the University is 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.