Student files class-action lawsuit against UT-Austin, saying online education last year wasn’t worth the tuition

The Texas flag flies on the University of Texas south lawn on the Austin campus on December 3, 2019. Photo credit: Eddie Gaspar / The Texas Tribune

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A student is suing the University of Texas at Austin and its regents in a class action lawsuit, calling inferior online educational options offered at the start of the pandemic and “drastically different” from typical personal instruction.

Lawyers argue in the lawsuit filed on Friday that the quality of these classes declined when most classes were forced online when the pandemic broke out in the US last spring – but the tuition fees weren’t.

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The lawsuit seeks compensation for the named plaintiff, Anissa Reyes, and all other students who paid their tuition and expected “face-to-face, hands-on training” but whose classes went online in Spring 2020. The lawsuit calls for a prorated refund proportional to the time spent online as a result of the pandemic. UT-Austin had over 51,000 students enrolled in the 2019-20 academic year, including students who had already taken online courses.

“In short, with regard to tuition, the plaintiff and the members of the class paid tuition for a high quality education and training experience,” the lawsuit states, “and they were provided with a substantially different and inadequate product that was a violation against the treaties. ” received by the plaintiff and the class with the university. “

UT-Austin spokesman JB Bird said Monday night the university had not been served on the lawsuit. Reyes and her attorney, Anthony Bruster von Bruster, PLLC of Southlake, did not respond to requests for comment.

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After higher education institutions in Texas went online almost a year ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of similar lawsuits with complaints related to tuition fees arose in the United States.

Last spring, some universities, including UT-Austin, paid out millions in refunds for unused services such as meal plans and campus accommodation, but few, if any, offered tuition refunds. Most universities also received millions in federal funding to offset emergency aid and reimbursements.

The attorneys filed a class action lawsuit against Rice University in January seeking compensation for students whose classes were interrupted in the spring. Baylor University was the target of the first lawsuit in the state last summer seeking prorated tuition and tuition refunds due to the pandemic.

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Disclosure: Baylor University, Rice University, and the University of Texas at Austin have sponsored The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, impartial news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the journalism of the Tribune. A full list can be found here.

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