Indiana University has joined a growing number of universities facing lawsuits filed by students who allege they haven’t been properly refunded for disruptions to the spring semester.
Justin Spiegel, an Illinois resident studying informatics at the Bloomington campus, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit alleging IU breached its contract with students when it moved all classes online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic without reducing or refunding tuition.
The suit is seeking class-action status and seeks refunds on a pro-rata basis. The suit makes two claims: unjust enrichment and breach of contract.
Last month, a Purdue student filed a similar lawsuit against the university. In both suits, the students claim the online learning experience they’re receiving now is not commensurate with the in-person experience they paid for.
Students also claim they have been deprived of the services fees pay for, such health center fees or activity fees, since students were asked to leave campus and most buildings have been closed.
“While closing campus and transitioning to online classes was the right thing for defendant to do, the decision deprived plaintiff and other members of the classes from recognizing the benefits of in-person instruction, access to campus facilities, student activities, and other benefits and services in exchange for which they had already paid tuition and fees,” the lawsuit states.
A spokesperson for Indiana University said the university is deeply disappointed.
“In the midst of a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our entire way of life, Indiana University has acted responsibly to keep our students safe and progressing in their education,” Chuck Carney said in written comments. “We are deeply disappointed that this lawsuit fails to recognize the extraordinary efforts of our faculty, staff, and students under these conditions while it seeks to take advantage in this time of state and national emergency.”
The suit says students have been forced to choose to attend IU online, an option that is cheaper than receiving a degree on campus. Doing so has deprived them of face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers, access to facilities, student governance, extra-curricular activities, and networking and mentorship opportunities, the suit says.
Attending IU at the Bloomington campus for a bachelor’s of science degree in informatics, which the plaintiff is pursuing, costs $43,792 for resident students and $146,000 for out-of-state students, according to the suit. The online degree would cost between $30,000 and $42,000.
“Common sense would dictate that the level and quality of instruction an education can provide through an online format is lower than the level and quality of instruction that can be provided in person,” the suit say.