Law firm adds UW to growing list of universities sued by students, graduates and parents paying tuition and fees during COVID-19 campus closures
A University of Washington grad student today filed a class-action lawsuit against UW, its board of regents and its president, demanding repayment for tuition and other mandatory fees citing the university’s response to COVID-19 campus closure and online learning, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman representing the proposed class.
The lawsuit was filed Sept. 16, 2020, in the Superior Court of the State of Washington, King County, and accuses the university of breach of contract and unjust enrichment along with alleged violations of 28 U.S.C. § 1983. The law firm representing the student has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brandeis University, Brown University, Emory University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Hofstra University, University of Miami, New York University, Pepperdine University, Quinnipiac University, Rutgers University, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis for failure to repay tuition-payers for their losses.
"Our Seattle-based law firm includes many individuals who call UW their alma mater, and while we understand the unforeseen limitations the pandemic has placed on institutions of higher learning, we believe UW’s community and its students deserve better," said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action. "It is our hope that through this litigation, UW can come to recognize its responsibility to tuition-payers and the ways in which it has failed to deliver what it promised them."
The complaint reads, "Despite sending students home, transitioning to online instruction, and closing its campuses, University of Washington continued to charge for tuition and/or fees as if nothing changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students."
The grad student bringing the lawsuit states that he paid UW for "opportunities and services that he did not receive, including on-campus education, facilities, services, and activities."
"With the University of Washington’s effective campus closure, cancellation of campus events, suspension of many campus services and programs, and transition to exclusively online instruction starting in the Winter Quarter 2020 and continuing in the Spring Quarter 2020 and beyond…Plaintiff lost access to the on-campus instruction, opportunities, facilities, and services for which Plaintiff had bargained for by selecting—and paying tuition and fees for—in-person courses and experiences," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit highlights that the plaintiff enrolled to obtain in-person, on-campus instruction including ability to attend professors’ office hours and access campus amenities and faculty mentorship.
The suit also says that in the university’s efforts to recruit students, it touts its face-to-face campus experience including student life: "Your Husky Experience doesn’t end when you leave the classroom. The hours you spend outside class are just as vital as the ones you spend inside," according to UW promotional material cited in the lawsuit. UW says on its website, "[a] UW education is more than a degree," and "[b]y more we mean skills, knowledge and abilities gained through classroom learning as well as high impact experiences such as studying abroad, jobs and internships, research and leadership projects, and participating in clubs and community organizations."
"UW’s renowned faculty, immersive on-campus experience and facilities are what it promised to students who would be attending," Berman said. "And it cannot be denied that during COVID-19, the winter and spring quarters at UW did not meet the university’s standards, nor its promises to tuition-payers."
Other Affected Universities
Hagens Berman is investigating the rights of those who are currently paying for room and board, and/or tuition at all U.S. colleges and universities that have been forced to close due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This may include parents, guardians or college students who are paying for their own costs of college.
Despite orders from colleges and universities sending home students and closing campuses, these institutions of higher learning continue to charge for tuition and room and board. Collectively, these institutions are continuing to receive millions from students despite their inability to continue school as normal, or occupy campus buildings and dorms.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of "Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm," and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.
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