Hagens Berman: USC Student Files Class-Action Lawsuit for University’s Failure to Repay Tuition and other Costs Lost During COVID-19 Shutdown

Lawsuit seeks to represent all USC students affected; law firm investigating claims against all U.S. colleges and universities

LOS ANGELES--()--An anonymous student of the University of Southern California filed a class-action lawsuit seeking to represent all USC students enrolled at the university for the spring 2020 semester to obtain repayment of tuition, room and board and other expenses in light of the outbreak of COVID-19, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.

The anonymous female student referred to in the lawsuit as Jane Doe is represented by Hagens Berman, which led a landmark sexual harassment class action against USC resulting in a $215 million settlement with the university and its former full-time gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall. Approximately 18,000 individuals are covered by the settlement. The firm has also recently brought tuition and fee refund suits against Boston University, Brown University, George Washington University and Vanderbilt University, in which students and parents sued their universities.

The class-action lawsuit against USC and its board of trustees has been brought by a fulltime USC student and California resident. The case was filed May 7, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and accuses the university of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, conversion and violations of the California Business & Professional Code.

If you are paying for college tuition, and/or room and board at a college or university closed due to COVID-19, find out more about the lawsuit and your rights. The law firm is investigating all higher education institutions in the U.S.

“Students at USC have been left completely powerless as their dorms have closed, often with their belongings still inside, and campus closures have left them without many of the amenities they expected in attending USC and are still paying for,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action. “USC, like many universities, has a choice. They can choose to do the right thing and reimburse students and parents. Unfortunately, USC has chosen otherwise, and we believe that choice violates the law.”

USC’s Responsibility to its Students

The suit’s anonymous plaintiff states in the complaint that she enrolled at USC due to the appeal of the in-person experience she would receive with faculty and fellow students, as well as its academic rigor. The lawsuit says USC has failed to maintain those promises: “While USC publicly maintains the position that it continues to offer a high-quality education and a robust learning environment, the reality as reflected by Plaintiff’s experience is far different.”

The lawsuit says USC’s in-and-out Zoom conferences, “rote emails,” professors’ “sterilized lectures” and lack of office hours have left students empty-handed, but still holding the bill.

The suit states, “On top of these examples, her professors have outright cut out key assignments vital to her educational experience, including assignments that would provide her with important learning opportunities and access to USC’s alumni network.”

USC is accused of flagrantly ignoring its responsibility to students at a time when “layoffs and furloughs are at record levels.” USC’s actions, attorneys say, are further financially damaging students, parents and guardians paying for USC’s services.

“Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, and efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ prompted colleges and universities across the country to shut down their campuses, evict students from campus residence halls, and switch to online ‘distance’ learning,” the lawsuit begins. “Despite sending students home and closing its campus(es), Defendant continues to charge for tuition, fees, and room and board as if nothing has changed, continuing to reap the financial benefit of millions of dollars from students.”

The suit states that the Campaign for USC, a multi-year fundraising campaign saw more than 400,000 donors provide $7.16 billion in funds between 2011-2018. The campaign was the second largest fundraising effort in the history of U.S. higher education. During the spring 2020 semester, USC costs students approximately $32,335.17 including tuition, room and board, and other expenses, “significantly higher than online only programs.”

Other Affected Universities

Hagens Berman is investigating the rights of those who are currently paying for room and board, and/or tuition at colleges and universities across the nation that have been forced to close due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This may include parents, guardians or college students who are paying for their own costs of college.

Despite orders from colleges and universities sending home students and closing campuses, these institutions of higher learning continue to charge for tuition and room and board. Collectively, these institutions are continuing to receive millions from students despite their inability to continue school as normal, or occupy campus buildings and dorms.

Find out more about the class-action lawsuit against colleges and universities for tuition, room and board and other costs incurred during the outbreak of COVID-19.

About Hagens Berman

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of “Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm,” and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.


Ashley Klann