Students at the school will not receive money back, even though classes have moved online this semester

By Jason Duaine Hahn
April 29, 2020 08:59 PM
Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty

Students at the University of Southern California will not receive partial refunds for the spring semester despite classes moving entirely online during the coronavirus pandemic.

Charles F. Zukoski, the school’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, said in an email Tuesday obtained by the Los Angeles Times that USC is providing the same level of expertise through its online classes that students would have received in person, and would not be issuing refunds to those who believe they’re not receiving the college experience they expected.

While this is not the semester any of us envisioned, we are continuing to provide a high-quality education, ensure academic progress towards degree, and offer a robust learning environment,” Zukoski said in a message sent to the campus community.

“Whether our instructors present their classes in person or online, they bring the same expertise, depth of knowledge, and commitment to their teaching, and students continue to earn credits toward a USC degree,” the email continued.

According to the Daily Trojan, USC’s campus newspaper, the university will move forward with its second session of online summer classes beginning July 1.

USC did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Many universities around the country are figuring out ways to salvage their school year after coronavirus forced the postponement of large public gatherings around the country.

While moving classes online has been a viable alternative, tuition at these universities often includes fees for things students can only get in-person, like healthcare and campus services.

This week, the University of California and California State University systems found themselves at the center of lawsuits brought by students who are demanding money back for these services they can’t use anymore.

“University of California’s decision to transition to online classes and to instruct students to leave campus were responsible decisions to make, but it is unfair and unlawful for University of California to retain fees and costs and to pass the losses on to the students and/or their families,” UC Davis student Claire Brandmeyer said in a complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Oakland, according to The Mercury News.

“Other higher education institutions across the United States that also have switched to e-learning and have requested that students leave campus have recognized the upheaval and financial harm to students and/or their families from these decisions and have provided appropriate refunds,” the suit continued.

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CSU contends the school system continued to provide service to students and that the suit “misstated facts.”

“The case against CSU asserts that students should be given refunds after CSU allegedly stopped providing services to them,” CSU spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp said in a statement sent to PEOPLE. “The complaint misstates the facts.”

“Although classes were converted to on-line instruction after Governor Newsom issued his stay-at-home order, every CSU campus continued to fulfill its mission of providing instruction and services to its students,” the statement continued. “Campuses continue to operate, and many personal services are now provided remotely, such as counseling, advising, faculty office hours, disability student services, and even telehealth medical care.”

CSU also said the suit misrepresented its position on refunds for certain campus-based fees, and that it will provide “refunds for various categories of fees that are determined to have been unearned by the campus.”

Zukoski said USC is still working to create new programs the strengthen its online offerings, and the school is also currently researching ways to test for the virus in the circumstance students are allowed back to campus in the fall.

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