A Forbes Magazine article reported staggering data about the price of university and college tuition in the United States — the average cost of a four-year college rose by 497% between 1985 and 2018, which is more than twice the rate of inflation. While this increase alone continues to cause a financial burden on tuition-payers, the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened this burden. Most universities that switched to remote learning in spring 2020 continued to charge the same tuition that was charged prior to the pandemic, according to the article. 

Multiple class-action lawsuits have been filed against universities in the U.S. regarding their COVID-19 tuition. One of the largest class-action suits is being represented by Hagens Berman, an international consumer-rights class-action and plaintiffs litigation law firm. Their “College Tuition and Fees Payback” case page states that they represent the rights of tuition-payers and “seek reimbursement for tuition and fees paid for during the spring 2020 terms and subsequent terms in which COVID-19 caused schools to provide online courses instead of in-person courses and/or campuses to close.”

Hagens Berman filed lawsuits against Brandeis University, as well as 18 other U.S. universities. According to the case timeline, the first complaint was filed against George Washington University on May 1, 2020, and the other complaints have continued to come in, filing dates spanning 2020 and 2021. 

The lawsuit against Brandeis was filed on May 28, 2020 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The firm is representing anyone who paid tuition and fees for the spring 2020 semester when they were sent home due to the pandemic. In the case document, the plaintiff is “John Doe, individually, and on behalf of all others similarly situated.” 

The Brandeis-specific lawsuit states that students enrolled in the University with the expectation of a residential and experiential learning experience, which students argue they did not receive. The appealing features of a small, liberal arts university were hard to maintain through remote learning. Steve Berman, managing partner at the firm, said “students did not enroll at Brandeis to waste their student loans on cancelled classes and absentee coursework.” regarding the lack of resources available to students. “While students enrolled and paid Defendant for a comprehensive academic experience, Defendant instead offers Plaintiff and the Class Members something far less,” the case document stated. 

The University has not refunded students for paid student services fees in spring 2020 and has refused to adjust tuition despite the changes to students’ learning experiences and campus life. The University’s website states that “online education is not less expensive to provide than in-person learning, and Brandeis has incurred significant unanticipated expenses around this transition.” 

The case is currently active, and Hagens Berman continues to encourage students from the University and other universities in the U.S. to join the class-action lawsuit.