“When the spring semester was disrupted by COVID-19, Emory University continued to provide our students with an excellent education as they make academic progress toward earning a degree,” the statement said, noting the university established a $5 million fund to support undergraduate, graduate and professional students facing financial hardships resulting from COVID-19.
Emory University, with more than 15,000 students, said in mid-March it would refund student accounts with a calculated amount of unused housing, dining, athletic fees, activity fees, parking fees, and other fees. Emory’s refund did not include tuition, which was about $26,500 for the spring semester.
The law firm said while the reason for virtual education was justified, the cost for such learning greatly exceeded how much money students at other colleges and universities paid and cited complaints about the online instruction in Emory’s student newspaper.
Peter McDonough, the former general counsel for Princeton University, said Monday that the lawsuits raise the question of the value of the education against the student’s expectations. He compared it to a lawsuit filed more than a decade ago by a law school student who paid tuition at Loyola University New Orleans but couldn’t take courses there after Hurricane Katrina. The student, though, was allowed to take free classes at Southern Methodist University law school in Dallas, Texas. A New Orleans federal court judge dismissed the case.
“The question that seems to be asked is what’s the value of the remainder of the semester and how we thought it would align with what we thought it would be like,” said McDonough, vice president and general counsel of the American Council of Education, a policy group that represents more than 1,700 colleges and universities and related associations.