Harvard Wins Lawsuit Against Students Over COVID-19 Partial Tuition Refund

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CAMBRIDGE (WBZ NewsRadio) — Harvard University won the dismissal of a lawsuit against students who demanded a partial tuition refund after classes were moved online during the coronavirus pandemic.

Three students leading the proposed class action believed it was unfair for Harvard to charge students full tuition for online schooling.

Law student Abraham Barkhordar and two master's degree candidates, Ella Wechsler-Matthaei in education and Sarah Zelasky in public health stated that the online classes they received were a downgraded education.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2020 and the students said, "The online learning option Harvard offered following the termination of its in-person services is subpar in practically every aspect: lack of facilities, lack of materials, lack of efficient classroom participation, and lack of access to faculty.”

Tuition for Harvard full-time students in the 2021-2022 academic year is $67,720 at the law school, $64,998 for a master of public health, and $51,904 in education.

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“Plaintiff therefore seeks, individually and on behalf of the Class, a proportionate reimbursement of tuition and fees for the Spring 2020 Term and a similar reimbursement for any subsequent academic term conducted in online format and for which Harvard charges tuition and fees at the same level or higher as prior years,” the lawsuit reads.

The complaint demanded Harvard pay around $5 million in tuition reimbursements to the whole student body affected by forced online education.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani declined the lawsuit since Harvard never contractually promised students in-person learning and on-campus resources during the spring 2020 semester.

The Boston-based judge said they failed "to plausibly allege facts suggesting that Harvard would reasonably expect students to understand from such material that Harvard had promised to provide in-person instruction, even where, during a global pandemic, the Governor and public health officials dictated otherwise."

Talwani noted that Harvard gave students the option to either do all-online learning or delay their education during the fall 2020 semester.

Harvard also offered partial refunds to students who chose to take a leave of absence.

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Written by Edyn Jensen

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