Remote learning worth full tuition? NJ graduate sues for refund
A Lake Hopatcong mother and daughter are suing Drew University for a partial refund after the student was forced to attend remote classes in the spring.
Angel Dougherty and her daughter, Crista, 23, who earned her fine arts degree in May, seek a refund of $8,000 from the $19,914 in tuition paid for the spring 2020 semester because Crista lost out on the "campus experience" promoted by the school when all New Jersey schools were ordered by Gov. Phil Murphy to close their buildings and campuses in March.
Drew, a private school, did not refund any tuition or fees for the spring semester, according to the lawsuit, which said in-person classes ended on March 10 and never resumed.
The lawsuit also seeks a refund for a mandatory $75 art fee, $200 parking fee and technology fee of $125.
"The online learning options being offered to Drew University students were subpar in practically every aspect, from the lack of facilities, materials, and access to faculty," according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, Crista Dougherty lost out on the opportunity to use on campus resources, meet in person with her professors, get one-on-one evaluations and critiques and have in-person graduation ceremony.
"The remote education provided was not even remotely worth the amount charged class members for spring 2020 semester tuition," according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also invites all 2,000 Drew students to join the lawsuit, which could mean a potential payout of $8 million. Drew petitioned Superior Court judge to move the case to federal district court, which handles civil cases with damages worth more than $75,000.
University spokeswoman Kristen Daily Williams told New Jersey 101.5 the school does not comment on pending litigation.
Drew is planning on offering both in-person and online classes during this year's spring semester and to allow students to stay in residential halls.
Kean, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Seton Hall, Montclair State and Rider also have been sued over tuition paid for classes during the spring closure for the pandemic.
Bill A-4408 would grant institutions of higher education and certain employees immunity from damages resulting from the coronavirus. It was referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee in July.
The New Jersey Herald was first to report on the Drew lawsuit.