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Two Iowa Colleges Sued Over Tuition Costs During COVID-19 Pandemic

A student attending Wartburg College filed a class-action lawsuit over the cost of tuition after “losing on-campus educational time and in-person resources amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” The student, Sydney Warner, filed the suit in Bremer County District Court over allegations that the “value of the remote learning provided by the college was less than the value of the on-campus experience promised by the college.” Additionally, the suit alleges “a portion of the tuition fees for the spring 2020 semester should be refunded as a result.”

Man in mask working on laptop at outdoor table; image by Paul Hanaoka, via Unsplash.com.

Warner is being represented by Bart Goplerud, an attorney with the Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese law firm and Hedin Hall LLP. When commenting on the suit, Goplerud said:

“They went to campus, they expected the on-life campus experience, and the in classroom teaching. And midway through the semester that all changed. They went to remote learning and they no longer had what is the basis of our claims, they no longer have access to that on-campus and in personal experience.”

Goplerud added that back on March 18, a student at Mount Mercy University filed a similar lawsuit in Linn County District Court against Cedar Rapids University. He noted the same firms are handling that case and said both cases are class-action lawsuits. He said:

“That way tens or hundreds or thousands of people don’t have to file their own individual lawsuit. It can be brought by one person, and if at the end of the day is successful, everybody will benefit financially.”

He added that many similar lawsuits have been filed since the pandemic began, and many have been dismissed because they “focused on the impact of virtual classes versus in-person classes.” Goplerud said the suits against Wartburg College and Mount Mercy University are different and noted:

“It’s difficult to quantify what, if any difference that remote learning is…Whereas our lawsuit is focused on those in campus experiences of the library was shut down, the gym is shut down, the theater was shut down, other resources such as labs and clinics were shut down and unavailable to them.”

It’s important to note that Wartburg College announced last July that it will offer a “free fifth year to any full-time students during the 2020-2021 academic year.” The announcement may be welcome news to students who feel as though they’ve missed out on a year of learning and a year of the college experience. Students like Warner, though, are demanding more. 

Sources:

Students file lawsuits against Iowa colleges over tuition costs during pandemic

Two students file class action lawsuits against Iowa colleges over tuition costs after schools moved online

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