A federal judge ruled today that Northeastern University never specifically promised students they would be educated in person and so tossed most of a class-action suit against the school over tuition and fees for this past spring's semester.
US District Court Judge Richard Stearns ruled the students could continue their case over a fee the university charged for use of athletic facilities and for admission to school sporting events, but that fee is only $60 a semester, compared to the roughly $26,000 Northeastern charged for tuition for the Covid-19-altered spring semester.
In a class-action suit, two students, one an undergraduate, the other a graduate student, alleged that a "financial responsibility agreement" they signed with Northeastern promised them in-person classes and that they wanted their money back - plus penalties and attorneys fees, for both themselves and all other students.
Stearns, however, said he agreed with the university that the agreement promised no such thing.
The [agreement] provides for students to "pay all tuition, fees, and other associated costs" incurred as a result of "registering for any class or receiving any service from Northeastern." It ties the payment of tuition to registration for courses, not to the receipt of any particular method of course instruction.
The two also said that in-person instruction became part of their contract when they registered for classes to "be taught within an assigned room in specific buildings."
But Stearns said the students' legal complaint:
[L}acks any allegation which might allow the court to reasonably infer that these descriptions were meant to be read "in conjunction with" [the agreement] – for example, that the descriptions appear on the registration website and are part of the enrollment process itself or that students generally understand the information in the description to be definitive.
Stearns said the students could, however, continue their suit when it comes to the $60 recreation fee since that was tied very specifically to access to locations on the Northeastern campus, such a fitness center and the student center.