DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A recent graduate is suing Southern Methodist University seeking a partial refund on tuition, after classes were moved online in March.
“At its core, it’s so simple. It’s, you know, did you get what you paid for? And, I think the clear answer is, ‘No’,” said Jeff Edwards, an attorney representing Luke Hogan and students like him.
The lawsuit, seeking to be certified as a class action suit, argues students paid for the education, experience and opportunities afforded on campus.
When COVID-19 hit North Texas in March, though, the university campus, like every other school’s, shut down, transitioning learning online.
SMU credited students for housing, dining and parking, but not tuition.
For Hogan, that came out to about $25,000 for spring semester alone.
Others, the lawsuit claims, spent more.
“You’re talking about thousands of students and a significant amount of money,” said Edwards.
In a message to students last April, the university wrote, “SMU’s online courses still reflect the same academic rigor and objectives as when they are delivered on campus. The efforts and resources are equivalent – and in some cases greater…”
“To pretend that online learning is the same or equitable with in person learning. Before COVID-19, there’s not a single person on SMU’s campus or in its administration who would have even hinted at such a suggestion,” he said.
Colleges across the country are facing similar lawsuits.
Edwards says, private schools – even preschools – could be hit, too.
“Everyone who paid for an education who didn’t receive it is entitled to a portion of that back,” he said.
Schools have argued they’re struggling financially.
“I understand the counter argument, ‘we still have to pay our teachers’. I understand that,” he said.
When it comes to wealthy private universities with endowments and insurance, though, Edwards says, he and many other attorneys are ready to head to court.
“The notion that you know Harvard University of Stanford University or SMU simply can’t afford it, we would take issue with that,” he said.
In response to questions about the lawsuit, SMU said it does not comment on pending litigation.
READ THE LAWSUIT HERE