Grainger Rickenbaker was more than halfway through his freshman year at Drexel University in Philadelphia when the pandemic forced its in-person courses and dormitories to be cleared indefinitely.
At his home in South Carolina, Rickenbaker, a real estate management major, is continuing his courses remotely and disappointed in the experience.
“There are two classes that aren’t even using the live-lecture format,” Rickenbaker said. “It almost feels that I’m just tuning in for a podcast. It doesn’t really feel like the full classroom experience.”
Drexel administrators informed students last month they wouldn’t be on the hook for housing bills or meal plans while the campus was closed. But there would be no discounts to normal tuition rates, the university said, despite the shift to e-learning, which is ordinarily offered to undergraduates at up to 40 percent less per credit, according to rates posted on the school website.
Rickenbaker is asking for a refund of some of the money, and he is not alone in class action lawsuits forming across the country. Other universities, including Michigan State, Columbia, Purdue, Colorado and Arizona State, are facing similar legal complaints from disgruntled students insisting there’s diminished value in a virtual education.
The law firm working with Rickenbaker is heading at least eight other class action lawsuits while advertising its services to other clients with a website named “CollegeRefund2020.”
A Drexel spokesperson stated that “dedicated faculty and professional staff have adopted a variety of methods for delivering the academic program,” and that its students “continue to have access to Drexel’s broad spectrum of academic offerings and support.”
A communications spokesperson for the University of Colorado said he was disappointed but not surprised that his school was also being sued.
“Nobody wanted to do this. Nobody hopes for a global pandemic,” according to the UC spokesperson. “The faculty across all of our campuses moved quickly to deliver courses remotely. They’re working hard to ensure that they have academic rigor. And we’re doing the best we can to deliver on what we promised.”
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