Three Columbia students are suing the university seeking tuition reimbursement for canceled in-person classes.
While the Columbia students acknowledge that it was necessary to close and transition to online distance learning in March, halfway through the Spring semester, their two separate class-action lawsuits argue that online instruction is not why they paid Columbia’s notoriously high tuition.
The students are asking for a partial refund of the tuition fee to be paid on a pro rata basis, meaning that they would receive back the cost of approximately 55 percent of the semester.
The lawsuits follow the growing popularity of a petition from Columbia students asking for partial tuition reimbursement that has reached over 8,000 signatures by the end of April.
“The tuition and fees for in-person instruction at Defendant’s institution are higher than tuition fees for online institutions because such costs cover not just the academic instruction, but encompass an entirely different experience,” one of the lawsuits reads.
The second lawsuit, filed anonymously, cites the loss of access to fitness centers, libraries, 24/7 counseling support, medical services, sexual violence response support and a student activity fee that covered the cost of student events and helped fund student organizations.
“Student events and activities have been cancelled, student organizations are no longer operational, and students who have moved home no longer have the need for or access to the various health facilities,” the second lawsuit alleges.
The suit says that a residential MS in social work at Columbia costs approximately $58,612, nearly $10,000 more expensive than the fee for Columbia’s online program offering the same degree.
Columbia University’s Office of Student Financial Services previously offered to refund a proportion of students’ room and board, which costs roughly $14,016 for a full semester, as well as an additional $1,200 to aid students with off-campus living expenses. But the school did not offer tuition rebates or refunds.
“The University moved swiftly to ensure instruction continues throughout the spring semester and students can earn full credit for the semester’s work,” Columbia University’s Office of Financial Services announced on April 13 on its website.
“Tuition and fees will continue to pay for the delivery of instruction, as well as the associated costs of academic support services,” Columbia’s statement continued. “As long as instruction continues, tuition will not be refunded.”