Paul L. Caron

Friday, April 23, 2021

Courts Differ On Whether Colleges Should Pay Tuition Refunds For Classes Shifted Online During COVID-19, In COVID Tuition Refund Cases, Courts Continue to Differ on Whether Schools 'Promised' In-Person Learning:

Class actions by students seeking tuition reimbursements from colleges and universities that went remote during the pandemic continue to hinge on whether the schools were contractually obligated to provide in-person instruction. But judges across the country have so far had very different answers to that question.

As’s Amanda Bronstad reported back in October, judges, faced with a lack of specific written contracts in these cases, have been forced to look to other sources, such as tuition agreements and marketing materials, to determine whether an institution for higher learning had made a pact to provide in-person learning.

“I would have told you 15 years ago these claims have no chance, but today I can’t be that predictive—you may see some judges who think, well, promises were made and representations made, there’s some contract,” Peter Lake, a professor at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Florida, told Bronstad at the time. “My guess is somewhere, someplace, some judges are going to evolve claims against institutions in ways that wouldn’t have been obvious 10 to 15 years ago.”

Indeed, a number of judges have done just that. But a few recent rulings have come down from courts who were decidedly more skeptical of plaintiffs’ contractual claims. ...

With more than 200 of these class actions still pending around the country, there remains no clear path to success for either plaintiffs or defendants.

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