A lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles federal court alleges that USC is profiting from the coronavirus pandemic by refusing to refund unused portions of students' spring fees.
The complaint -- among about a half-dozen similar suits -- alleges breach of contract for USC's stated refusal to reimburse pro-rated portions of students' payments after the university was forced to close its campus due to the public health crisis.
The university issued a statement saying it was “disappointed by the lawsuit, but believe the evidence will show that USC took extraordinary steps to ensure continuity of the educational experience for its students.”
The complaint names Los Angeles undergraduate student Justin Kerendian as lead defendant and asks for class-action status on behalf of all USC students who paid spring fees. Kerendian says he paid about $30,000 for spring semester tuition and fees and has not attended any in-person classes since March 10.
The suit alleges that USC's refusal to refund fees is unlawful and unfair, and accuses the university of engaging in “fraudulent business practices that are harmful and injurious” to students.
The university has been “unjustly enriched by retaining the tuition and fees without providing the same high-quality education and experience that plaintiff and the class members” were promised, the lawsuit alleges.
In late April, USC Provost Charles F. Zukoski said the school will not give partial tuition refunds for the spring semester or upcoming summer sessions even though the campus shifted to online instruction.
“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 an email 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.”
Zukoski's message came a day after students demanded refunds for campus fees in proposed class-action lawsuits against the University of California and California State University systems. Those lawsuits argue that the two public university systems should return millions of dollars to the 700,000 students they collectively serve because they can no longer fully access health care, campus centers and other services funded by their mandatory fees.