Columbia University Pays $12.5M to Settle COVID-19 Reimbursement Claims

Uris Hall on display at Columbia University during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York, US, May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

NEW YORK, Nov. 24 (Reuters) – Columbia University agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle a lawsuit by students alleging it failed to reimburse fees when it moved classes online in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A preliminary settlement of the proposed class action was filed Tuesday evening and must be approved by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan.

Columbia will repay $8.56 million in fees for student activities, health services and the use of its gyms, libraries and other facilities, and pay nearly $4 million to avoid the risk of further lawsuits.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

The Ivy League school had previously issued a partial refund of tuition. Roy Willey, an attorney for the students, said the $8.56 million was 100% of what the university still owed. Columbia denied wrongdoing by agreeing to a settlement.

At least 261 lawsuits have been filed against US colleges and universities for their alleged failure to reimburse tuition and fees when the pandemic forced them into distance learning, according to law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

Many of these lawsuits have been dismissed, including a case against Harvard University in June, because the schools had not contractually promised personalized instruction and access to facilities on campus.

In February, Furman dismissed Columbia students’ claims for tuition refunds, with the school delaying decision-making about maintaining its academic standards and promoting public health, but allowing them to ask for tuition refunds.

“The pandemic has presented serious challenges to supporting education, research, patient care and public service that are core to Columbia’s mission,” Columbia said in a statement on the settlement Wednesday. “During this period, we have been committed to meeting the needs of our students.”

Attorneys for the students can charge up to a third of the settlement fund for legal fees.

The case is In re Columbia University Tuition Refund Action, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-03208.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to reuters.com

Reporting by Jonathan Stamp in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *