Bass, Berry & Sims attorney Audrey Anderson discussed the viability of lawsuits filed against colleges and universities for tuition refunds following the move to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students and parents filed lawsuits demanding refunds claiming the virtual educational experience was either substandard or not what was promised. Industry leaders believe that such lawsuits are encountering difficulties where they allege the educational experience was substandard; however, cases alleging a college or university breached a contractual promise to students to provide a certain educational experience – for example, in-person versus virtual – could be more compelling.

According to Audrey, this approach “doesn’t require someone to show that online education was a lower quality. They need to show that the institution clearly promised an in-person education that it didn’t deliver.”

Audrey further elaborated saying, “colleges with clearly distinguishable online and in-person programs before the pandemic were ‘particularly vulnerable’ to lawsuits like these, because they were more likely to talk about them differently and, in some cases, to price them differently.” She recommended that “colleges and universities seeking to avoid or protect themselves against such lawsuits going forward would be advised to scour their various documents and promotional materials to ensure that they don’t make promises they can’t keep.”

The full article, “Courts Skeptical on COVID-19 Tuition Lawsuits,” was published by Inside Higher Ed on May 6 and is available online.