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Should college students get a refund for online learning during COVID?

Kyalynn Moore-Wilson, a freshman, sits at a desk in her dorm room before joining a Zoom meeting for an 'Introduction to Psychology' course as classes begin amid the coronavirus pandemic on the first day of the fall 2020 semester at the University of New Mexico. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

A King County judge allowed a lawsuit to move forward against the University of Washington from a graduate student who is suing the school over the cost of tuition during the COVID pandemic. Now, two of Oregon’s largest universities are also being sued by students because of online learning costs. Should these students get a refund?

King County judge allows student’s suit against UW to go forward

The three class-action lawsuits that were filed against the University of Oregon and Oregon State University claim that the schools charged students full price for online classes that the students say were poorer quality than in-person learning.

Nationally, more than 200 similar lawsuits challenging pandemic pricing have been filed.

So, if you’re on a jury, do you agree with the students?

“You knew the answer to that question,” KIRO Radio’s Gee Scott replied. “Yes, I agree. And here’s why. Dear University of Washington, Oregon, and every other university out there: Did you provide what they thought that they were going to be paying for? If the answer is no, then they need their money back.”

Gee argues that when you pay to attend college, in or out of state, part of what you’re paying for is the experience, which “a lot of kids” did not get during the pandemic.

“So, I was initially with you,” KIRO Radio’s Ursula Reutin said.

Her son is attending school in Colorado, and he has just one class that’s in person at this point.

“That all said, he is still getting a good education,” Ursula said. “The instructors are still there. So I don’t think that you can say you should get all your tuition back. I think it would be very difficult to even argue how much of your tuition should be returned.”

Gee then proposed setting the price at $25,000. How much of that should families get back?

“I think, at a minimum, they should get back every single fee that is tacked on … for facilities, athletic programs,” Ursula said.

“You can argue that none of these things are happening and that money should come back. But you cannot argue that your students are not getting an education,” she added. “They’re getting an education, it’s just not what you initially envisioned. It’s online, but … the schools are still paying the professors to hold those classes.”

Ursula admits her thoughts on this have changed.

“I’m just trying to be realistic,” she said. “I still think it should be reduced, like I wanted to argue that, especially when [my son] was at home, why the heck should we pay out of state?”

“It’s not that there are no costs,” she added. “You still have to pay the cost of the professor.”

For now, most college students are getting nothing back.

“The thing is, we’re getting zero cents back,” Ursula said. “Not even my fees is what I’m trying to tell you. So there are certain things that need to be cut right off the top.”

“And I want to point out this is also the same [at] private high schools, they’re not cutting their tuition. Your students are still learning, and people are still paying full tuition,” she said.

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