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Stephen L. Carter

Lawsuits Won't Get College Students a $55,000 Refund

Students feeling ripped off by remote learning are suing. Universities are pointing to the fine print.

$55,000 a year and all I got was this funny hat.
$55,000 a year and all I got was this funny hat.

Photographer: Agnes Bun/AFP/Getty Images

Students displeased with remote learning have filed hundreds of lawsuits seeking tuition refunds from their colleges and universities. The defendants are mostly winning, and we should all be worried about how. As plaintiff after plaintiff argues that the schools have breached contracts requiring in-person classes, networking opportunities, and all the benefits of the bright, cheery campuses pictured in recruiting materials, the schools have behaved like fly-by-night used car dealers, blaming their hapless customers for not reading the fine print more carefully.

I recognize that higher education is financially strapped, and that widespread tuition refunds would contribute to the deep carmine color decorating many a bottom line. (Many schools have already refunded room-and-board payments.) But the schools should ponder the long-term consequences of pursuing what amounts to an argument that the campus experience is worthless.