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OU facing class action lawsuit

ATHENS — A class action lawsuit against Ohio University was filed in the Ohio Court of Claims last week, seeking restitution for fees and expenses that may not have been fully rendered during Spring and Summer semesters 2020.

The suit was leveled by Lily Zahn, who graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelors of Strategic Communication and Social Media this year.

The suit seeks to act on behalf of any who was on the rolls for classes during the spring and summer 2020 semesters at OU. Coursework was moved online during Spring 2020 and will remain online during the Summer semester. Zahn alleges in the suit that OU has not refunded any tuition or mandatory fees despite moving to online learning March 10, 2020.

The suit argues that because the services OU offers are now online, the mandatory fees which were intended to cover services or facilities should be refunded for a pro-rated portion of the tuition and mandatory fees, stating that she and other students “have paid fees for services and facilities which are simply not being provided; this failure also constitutes a breach of the contracts entered into by Plaintiff and the Class with the University.”

Full-time students at Ohio University on the Athens Campus during Spring 2020 (those taking between 12-20 credit hours per semester), faced an instructional fee of $5,522, a general fee of $712, and for those from out of state, a non-resident fee of $4,897, for totals of $6,234 for in-state students and $11,131 for out-of-state students.

OU also offers an “eCampus” for online classes, with a separate tuition and fees scale. For Ohio residents, this would cost a total of $240 per credit hour or $243 for out-of-state students.

The class action suit argues that Zahn, along with her classmates, paid these fees so they could “benefit throughout the Spring 2020 semester from improved access to and assistance with information technology, the promotion of students’ emotional and physical wellbring (sic), as well as the social development outside the classroom.”

Students have asked for a return of the prorated portion of their payments, even creating a petition to demand the return of the funds.

“In tacit acknowledgement that the online education system is substantially different and inadequate, the University allowed students to receive a ‘Satisfactory/No Credit’ grade rather than the traditional letter grading system,” the suit points out.

OU has been facing significant budget issues, laying off around 400 workers since the onset of COVID-19 as a global pandemic; however, the institution’s financial struggles date back for years.

The university has been facing many budget issues for a while, which have worsened due to COVID-19, and resulted in the loss of about 400 positions at the university since the pandemic’s onset. This includes a loss of about $18 million of revenue, which was issued in refunds to students for pro-rated housing, dining and parking fees — however, this measure did not include tuition and fees.

This is not the first such class action lawsuit leveled against higher education institutions due to COVID-19-related issues with in-person teaching.