Columbia, Pace Universities Sued by Students Over Virus Refunds

(Bloomberg) -- Columbia University and Pace University in New York were sued by two students seeking partial refunds on tuition and fees after being denied in-person classes because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The students, one from each school, are seeking class-action status for their claims so they can represent all other students who paid for classroom instruction that is now being offered only online after the campuses were closed.

While the schools made the right move to confront a public health risk, their decisions “deprived plaintiff and the other members of the class from recognizing the benefits of in-person instruction, access to campus facilities, student activities and other benefits and services,” the Columbia student said in a complaint filed Thursday in Manhattan federal court.

The Columbia student, who resides outside New York state, sued anonymously, claiming a fear of retaliation by the university. Pace was sued by Xaviera Marbury, a New Yorker who is an undergraduate business student.

Both students are demanding the return of money collected in excess of the value of the online instruction. They didn’t specify what that value was except to say it was “significantly lower.” Tuition to pursue an undergraduate degree in social work at Columbia is $58,612 a year, according to the lawsuit.

A Pace spokeswoman had no immediate comment. Columbia didn’t immediately return a phone message.

The New York lawsuits add to a growing list of claims filed against U.S. colleges and universities by students who say they haven’t gotten what they paid for in the spring of 2020.

The cases are Student A v. Board of Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 20-cv-03208; Marbury v. Pace University, 20-cv-03210, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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