Students at Wayne State University (WSU), filed a class action lawsuit against the school last week in response to the University’s refusal to issue satisfactory refunds after in-person classes were cancelled and students were sent home in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The students are being represented in the lawsuit by the Bloomfield Hills and Detroit-based law firm Fink Bressack. The lawsuit charges WSU, Michigan’s third-largest university, with unfairly refusing to issue refunds for housing, meals, tuition and other fees which students prepaid for services they will not receive.
“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 and Michigan State University in similar lawsuits against those institutions.
With a global pandemic looming, Wayne State officials cancelled all in-person classroom instruction and transitioned to online courses only. Despite these significant changes, the University has not agreed to issue any refunds for tuition.
WSU students were just past the midway point of their Winter 2020 semester when the school cancelled in-person classes on March 11. Tuition for the semester started at approximately $7,000 for in-state residents and just under $15,000 for out-of-state 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 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. Without a full refund, they will be paying interest for something they did not receive,” said Fink.
The March 11 letter from Wayne State also asked students to leave their University housing and return to their place of permanent residence. The University is offering an $850 room and board credit to students who moved out of their University housing by April 9.
Room and board fees for Wayne State’s Winter 2020 semester started at approximately $4,722. The University’s $850 credit, which is intended to compensate students for room and board costs, does not provide a full refund for the six weeks of housing and meals costs that students lost when they were asked to vacate their University housing.
“While WSU 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. 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.