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SCAD student sues school over coronavirus online learning plan

Savannah College of Art & Design student Makari Roehrkasse filed a class action lawsuit against the school.
Savannah College of Art & Design student Makari Roehrkasse filed a class action lawsuit against the school.

A Savannah College of Art & Design student has filed a class action lawsuit against the school over its switch to online learning after the coronavirus pandemic prompted the school to close its campuses to prevent the spread of the disease.

SCAD is one of several colleges and universities across the nation being sued on claims that its online learning was poorly done or was not worth the thousands of dollars students paid for such instruction. An Emory University student filed a class action lawsuit against that school last week.

The SCAD student, Makari Roehrkasse, says the university, among other things, breached its contract with students by not offering them refunds if they did not want to take online courses. The complaint says SCAD students need physical resources to complete their education, making online learning difficult.

Roehrkasse said students should have been given more time, about two weeks, to decide whether they wanted to take online courses or consider other options. The college, which has a campus in Midtown Atlanta, operates on a quarter system that began March 30 and ends May 28.

SCAD’s quarterly tuition is $12,525 for full-time, undergraduate students. It has about 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students worldwide.

The complaint notes the valuable properties SCAD owns worldwide and contends the undergraduate is wrongly profiting off students through the pandemic.

“No matter the excuse, SCAD’s actions are unlawful and unfair,” Roehrkasse’s attorneys at Bowen Painter LLC wrote in the complaint.

> RELATED: In lawsuits, students allege subpar online instruction, seek refunds

The complaint was filed April 28 in Chatham County Superior Court in Savannah. SCAD was alerted to the lawsuit this week by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Roehrkasse’s attorneys said it’s had trouble processing the lawsuit with SCAD because the college’s Atlanta office where the complaint needed to be sent was closed.

SCAD said in a statement it did offer students full refunds. Students who completed a course this spring and aren’t satisfied will be offered a free retake of the course, SCAD’s website says.

“We do not comment on pending litigation, but plan to zealously address this situation through the legal process,” SCAD said. “The university announced two weeks before the Spring quarter started the need to move all courses and instruction online due to the virus. We wanted to be sure students had that time, as well as the first week of class, to decide whether they wanted to take classes in a completely online environment, or drop courses and receive a full tuition refund.”

The lawsuit asks for damages in an amount to be proven at trial, attorney fees and other expenses.