Hey, there! Log in / Register

Lawsuit asks: If Suffolk normally charges less for its online classes, why aren't students suddenly forced to take them getting a rebate?

Suffolk University yesterday became the latest local college to get hit with an online-learning-sucks lawsuit, by a biology major who wants some of her spring-tuition tuition back.

In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Boston, Julia Durbeck and her two law firms are seeking to become lead plaintiff in a class action against Suffolk on behalf of all students who had to shift online after the school shut its campus because of Covid-19 concerns in March.

While closing campus and transitioning to online classes was the right thing for Defendant to do, this decision deprived Plaintiff and the other members of the Class 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 fees and tuition.

Durbeck, who says she was particularly affected by the lack of access to labs, says Suffolk states in its own "vision" statement that it "will be a leader in experiential [hands on] learning" and says Suffolk itself recognized the differing values of in-person and online education, at least at the graduate level, charging $1,519 per credit hour for its on-campus MBA program, and only $1,171 for similar online classes, at least before Covid-19.

In addition to a pro-rata tuition refund for herself and other students, Durbeck is demanding a similar refund of fees, plus damages and lawyers' fees.

Neighborhoods: 
AttachmentSize
PDF icon Complete complaint234.94 KB

Ad:

Do you like how UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

Not a fan of these kinds of lawsuits but this does pose a serious question. Why ARE people paying more for online classes when they paid for in person one.

I agree rebates/refunds should be given. You aren't getting what you paid for. And while we're in a pandemic, it still doesn't negate the question.

I'd be pissed if i paid 25k only to go home and sit in front of a computer for classes. Nope.

up
Voting closed 37

Contract law usually stipulates for “Acts if God.” For example, if there was a giant earthquake that destroyed the campus, you wouldn’t blame the school for offering online classes.

To put it another way, they’re not moving to online lectures solely to save money. It’s in response to a pandemic. The staff and facilities are already paid for.

They should at least credit facilities fees to future semesters or a refund to graduating seniors.

up
Voting closed 28

I wouldn't blame the school, but I also wouldn't assume that people who had paid the higher price for in-person classes aren't due a partial refund.

A lot of events have been cancelled because of the coronavirus, and the organizations and people who had contracts for space in hotels and convention centers don't still owe the money, even though it's not the hotel's doing that the state said they can't hold the event.

I'm not a lawyer. and don't know what a court will say here, but it's not a slam-dunk "acts of god, tough, they get to keep your money."

up
Voting closed 9

Airlines are a good example of the "act of god" thing. It's not uncommon for an airline to cancel a flight due to weather, mechanical failure, etc. Provided the airline provides an alternative flight within a timely manner, it's hard to get any sort of refund out of them.

up
Voting closed 11

Airlines man.

I'm involved with an organization that sends students to Germany for a conference most years. The airline is holding strong with their "we didn't cancel your flight so we won't be giving a full refund."

Even though, ignoring the health risks of international travel in late March, none of the people that would have been traveling would have been allowed entry into Germany if they had gone on their flight.

It does seem my colleagues have finally negotiated them to a 5 year voucher, which presumably even in the worst case pandemic scenario, will still be able to be used in this program at some point before it expires.

up
Voting closed 11

and still be good for use at the other airline that buys the remains of the first one?

up
Voting closed 6

Probably a somewhat good comparison between airlines and colleges.

If airlines refunded everyone who could not travel from late Jan/ Feb through, say, August, how would they not go bankrupt? Don't forget that they aren't selling many tickets, and don't know when they will again.

Similarly, most colleges probably don't have the cash to refund students. Labs and gyms are built, staff is paid for the most part. They aren't saving much money by not having kids on campus.

This sucks for everyone except maybe Netflix, Lysol, and companies that make masks. But for these organizations with massive fixed costs, I don't see how they could issue refunds.

* I don't work for a college or airline. I don't think either has a great history of fiscal management or use of government funds/bailouts. But that doesn't change their situation here in 2020.

. we didn't cancel your flight so we won't be giving a full refund."

up
Voting closed 4

Mechanical failure isn't a force majeure issue - that's bad maintenance, and airlines are liable for that, that's why their response different when it's a mechanical failure and they will rebook, credit, refund and do what they can to keep people happy.

up
Voting closed 2

At many Universities, the online classes aren't the same as the in-class version. Online classes are often taught by junior faculty or adjuncts with fewer credentials. There are more students. The online version lacks the in-class discussion and assignments that the in-person version of the classes have. The in-person, faculty are expected to spend more time reviewing work submitted by the students and providing feedback.

When classes went online in March, it was the same faculty teaching them and using Zoom they tried to preserve the interactive nature of the in-class version.

To each their own if the in-person classes are worth it over the online version but they aren't the same.

Universities should offer a full refund for the semester if students make the request. But the students should loose out on the credits and need to take the classes again.

up
Voting closed 22

Online classes are often taught by junior faculty or adjuncts with fewer credentials. There are more students. The online version lacks the in-class discussion and assignments that the in-person version of the classes have. The in-person, faculty are expected to spend more time reviewing work submitted by the students and providing feedback.

Online and face-to-face courses are what the institution and faculty make of them. The mode of instruction doesn't say anything about the rank of faculty, the number of students, the quality and nature of interaction, the sorts of formative and summative assessments, or the dedication of faculty to giving student feedback.

up
Voting closed 10

At most of these schools, the online and in-person classes aren't the same. So people can't claim they got the former while paying for the latter.

up
Voting closed 10

Subcontract out the operations of their online degree programs and certificate/bootcamp programs to for-profit companies:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/for-profit-compani...

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/08/online-graduate-pr...

https://www.huffpost.com/highline/article/capitalist-takeover-college/

So the online degree's connection to the titular school varies.

up
Voting closed 2

At schools like Harvard, many in-person classes are already taught by junior faculty or grad students. Even if there's a professor, they don't review your work or provide feedback -- that's left to the grad student Teaching Assistants, or in some cases undergrad Course Assistants.

up
Voting closed 7