As a result of COVID-19, thousands of colleges and universities have closed their campuses and moved to online learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. For some schools, this has meant shuttering dormitories and requiring students to relocate. For others, dormitories remain open but students are strongly encouraged to leave campus. And, in all cases, in-person extracurricular activities and sporting events have been suspended. The disruptions to university operations necessitated by today’s public health challenges are significant.
Among the difficult questions colleges and universities now face is how to handle payments for room and board, as well as other fees, that students have already paid. There are good reasons why a university may choose not to return such fees, among others: many of the costs those fees cover will already have been incurred, such fees are frequently used to employ university staff who may be hard and costly to rehire if have they have to be laid off now, and maintaining buildings and facilities is mandatory if a university wants to reopen quickly when the COVID-19 crisis has passed. A recently filed lawsuit, Rosenkrantz, et al. v. Arizona Board of Regents, No: 2:20-cv-00613 (D. Ariz. Mar. 27, 2020), raises this issue through a putative class action lawsuit.
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