Universities don’t owe students money for online courses
A state Court of Appeals panel ruled Thursday that three Michigan universities do not owe students financial reimbursements for switching from in-person to online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students had sued Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Lake Superior State University. They argued that their schools breached the agreements by switching to “emergency distance learning”.
In a 2-1 decision, the judges upheld a lower court ruling in favor of the universities, saying the students failed to prove the schools “breached any contractual agreement with them”.
The majority opinion written by Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly said the students failed to provide contract language in which the universities promised live, in-person instruction.
“There is nothing so prejudicial to the public in this arrangement as to cause the court to grant relief under this theory,” Kelly wrote.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Eastern Michigan, for example, had provided education “in a way that is safe for students, faculty, and staff,” Judge added. The fact that a student perceives the contract, in retrospect, as being unfair does not render the contract contrary to public order, she added.
Judge James Robert Redford signed Kelly’s opinion.
The third judge, Brock Swartzle, wrote his own opinion, arguing against the outright dismissal of the students’ claims.
“Ultimately, there is a growing body of evidence, including evidence in this dossier, that students of all ages suffered significant educational setbacks during the winter/spring 2020 semester, and possibly in the beyond,” Swartzle wrote. “It adds insult to injury for a university student to have to pay full price for emergency distance education when that student would have negotiated for very different educational services.”
Students should be given the opportunity to make their case with the possibility of a trial, Swartzle said.