Student sues Indiana University for tuition, fee reimbursement

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.

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7 thoughts on “Student sues Indiana University for tuition, fee reimbursement

  1. Just another ambulance chaser… No planned for this or asked for this. It will work itself out, but lawsuits waste resources for all parties.

  2. This lawsuit is spot on. Doesn’t IU carry some sort of insurance for operations interruption? Insurance companies have been collecting premiums…time to pay up. Also..why should students/parents get stuck with the bill. It’s a nice scam when you can make your customers pay 100% upfront and then say “sorry…we did our best”.

    1. Ted K. The reason why finances are such an issue across all industries affected is because 10-15 years ago, the insurance industry added virus exclusions to policies; It would be a cash outlay.

      Most schools appear to have issued a pro-rata refund for room and board. Since the student likely received the opportunity to complete the credit, that seems like a fair arrangement in the short-term. To sue in an attempt to monotize the loss of in-person instruction during this environment is quite tacky.

  3. How much are they asking for in the suit? IU, all schools, should reimburse a pro-rated share of the lost weeks this semester. 35% of the on-campus Spring semester was cancelled. Students should be reimbursed 35% of Room and Board and much smaller percentage for tuition, maybe 10%. Anything more is greedy opportunism by the student, anything less is a rip-off. Oh, almost forgot, another half a million for pain and suffering

  4. Really?!!!

    There’s no guarantee that what happens in life is fair. Guess what, it’s not fair. Americans of yesterday year would have been happy that their education continues despite that we’re all living during a national emergency. What about the people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. All things being fair, those individuals should be suing their employers. What about everyone in the country that have lost their freedom to go and do whatever they used to do. Again, all things being fair, everyone should be suing the US government. What about the victims of the COVID-19? All things being fair, they and their families definitely need to be suing someone. Maybe they need to be suing the front line doctors, nurses and first responders that are trying to save lives while putting their own lives at risk.

    Is this what America is becoming??? A bunch of self-centered sue-happy cry babies? Get over yourselves and look around!

  5. Right on, Stephen E…but remember, these are college students, a demographic that is truly among the most ignorant in America. Not necessarily stupid, but woefully ignorant of life’s realities.

    1. Bob P, your take on things is pretty strong evidence that age doesn’t equal wisdom. Absent a force majeure clause in the enrollment and room & board agreements, schools should refund a reasonable amount and not stiff-arm the students.

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