Parent sues Miami University seeking tuition refund over remote learning

Judge could open suit to thousands
Miami University ranks third among national universities in study abroad participation
Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 05:00:40-04

CINCINNATI — An Illinois father filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status, demanding a partial refund of his daughter’s tuition from Miami University after it switched to online classes in March due to COVID-19.

Michael Weiman filed the breach of contract suit on Tuesday. If U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black approves it as class action, it could open the lawsuit up to thousands of Miami students and parents who are seeking refunds worth more than $5 million.

“Defendant is not entitled … to pass the entire cost of its COVID-19 related closure to its students and their families,” attorney Mitchel Luxenburg wrote in the lawsuit.

This is the third lawsuit filed by Ohio college students or their parents demanding refunds for closed campuses due to the pandemic. The first suit was filed in April against the University of Toledo and the second was filed in July against Xavier University.

A spokesperson for Miami University declined comment.

Miami will begin its fall semester online, after previously planning for an in-person start. Classes began Aug. 17, and students had to choose between a remote start with a phased reopening beginning Sept. 14, fully remote learning, or a gap year.

Students who chose the on-campus option will receive $750 in credit to their bill, and dining and housing costs will also be adjusted so they only pay for nine weeks. Ohio students who chose the fully remote option will be credited $1,000, and out-of-state students will be credited $2,000, according to the lawsuit.

“Miami University refuses to refund tuition and related expenses, purportedly on its provision of online classe," Luxenburg wrote. "In so doing, Defendant is attempting to replace the irreplaceable — on-campus life at an elite university — with ‘virtual learning’ via online classes, and is attempting to pass off this substitute educational experience as the same as or just as good as fully participation in the university’s academic life."

Weiman wants Miami to refund a prorated portion of tuition, fees and other related costs, proportionate to the diminished value of online classes from the spring and until it fully reinstates in-person classes.

Approximate tuition costs and fees for undergraduates for 2019-2020 were $15,911 for in-state residents and $35,937 for out-of-state residents. Room and board and related expenses for 2019-2020 were $16,654, according to the lawsuit.

“Remote learning options cannot replace the comprehensive educational experience promised by defendant," according to the lawsuit. "Access to facilities, materials, and faculty, and the opportunity for on campus living, school events, collaborative learning, dialogue, feedback and critique are essential to the in-person educational experience. Plaintiff and the putative class contracted and paid for the full experience of academic life."

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