Connect with us

Economy

Universities ‘feeding at the public trough’ Find Themselves At The Center Of COVID Lawsuits

Published

on

Screenshot 2020 04 20 09.30.40

Riley Heath was gearing up to graduate from Princeton University when he received an unexpected notification from his school saying he needed to vacate the campus within a week. He wasn’t the only one at his school and it was one of the first of many American universities to close its campus before the end of the semester amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The FitzRandolph Gate, where students traditionally walk through only after graduating from Princeton, was closed when Heath was leaving his campus alone with his belongings in tow. He manually kicked open the gate to exit and walked through leaving his college career behind. He told me it was a symbolic moment of the abrupt end of his four years that was anything but pomp and circumstance.

Heath and his peers are finishing their semesters of classes via Zoom video conferencing, which he described as “painful” and a format that “doesn’t compare” to in person learning.

“The discussion is so flat because you don’t know when to talk because you don’t want to talk over people.” Heath said, “So everyone just kind of ends up sitting there looking at each other while the preceptor just asks questions, which is just like honestly a little painful.”

Heath, however, is the example of so many college students across the country who are trying to adapt to a new method of learning, which they say isn’t what they paid for. That argument has become a sticking point for several recent class action lawsuits in which students are asking universities to provide partial tuition refunds.

The University of Miami in Florida and Drexel University in Pennsylvania are facing similar suits from students arguing that online programs offered by colleges are typically significantly cheaper than in person programs. Moreover, the students are saying that the university ‘breached’ their contracts with them and engaged in “unjust enrichment” from tuition that was collected but unused to better the students’ experiences.

The firm representing these students has created collegerefund2020.com because of the  influx of inquiries they have received amid the coronavirus, Roy Willey IV, a lawyer with the Anastopoulo Law Firm, said in an email to insidehighered.com.

A majority of universities, however, have come around to reimbursing students for their room and board costs on a prorated basis. Rep. Lance Gooden, R-TX, was an early advocate for the move in March, but argued that Congress shouldn’t get involved in the matter.

This reporter spoke with Rep. Gooden last week about the additional pressure students are placing on universities. He told me that the schools have “compelling arguments” that their students are still receiving their education, even if classes are online, however, the room and board repayments, he said, are a “nonnegotiable” for students who paid for their housing and were ultimately “kicked out.”

“Some of these are kids that don’t have anywhere to go, maybe they don’t have a home to return to or they can’t afford to get there, maybe they’re foreign and can’t leave the country. There’s so many sad stories,” Gooden said.

When asked if many American universities’ immense endowments, which are often in the hundreds of millions and tens of billions of dollars, could play some role in repaying students, because after I spoke with several students, they appear to be much more self-serving than not, Gooden replied that it’s “frustrating” and that “there’s probably some reforms to be made.”

“I know that it’s very frustrating when a school that has over a billion dollars, or hundreds of millions of dollars of an endowment comes and sends a team of people to my office and complains about how broke they are and it’s frustrating when I see schools put up a fight for returning money that should be owed to students knowing that they have hundreds of millions of dollars just sitting in a bank account and I realize that these endowments probably have taken a hit when the markets tanked in the last month, but I would think that the purpose of these endowments are to ensure for the continuity and the education of students,” Gooden explained.

He added, “There’s probably some reforms to be made. I don’t know if the government has the answers, but it’s really hard to feel sorry for any university that has such a huge endowment and they’re not really seemingly wanting to help. And I haven’t picked on any in particular, but we all know who the rich schools are and the level of sympathy for management of high dollar universities that have such huge bank accounts is just not there.”

Some universities are asking Congress to step in and provide them with stimulus funding. Despite their calls, Gooden says he “cannot imagine a scenario where we need to bail out universities who are not having to pay for the daily expense of the university because the campus is closed.”

He continued, “the universities are not profit centers, they shouldn’t be, they should be educating students. And, if anything, now I can’t imagine a scenario where that needs to be the case, but nothing surprises me. We’ve bailed out everyone else like casinos. It won’t surprise me if the universities feel like they need a feeding at the public trough.”

The University of Texas is one of the schools saying that the pandemic has taken a significant financial toll on the institution. However, the CARES Act allocated $14 billion for America’s higher education institutions and UTexas received $172.5 million of that funding, according to the Texas Tribune. The school’s endowment is the third-highest in the country with over $30 billion, right below Harvard and Yale.

ReturnMySemester.com was created as an online tracking tool for students who want to learn what their university is reimbursing and to compare that with their school’s endowments.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Economy

CO leaders stating they won’t use any city money to support migrants or to alleviate the crisis in Denver

Published

on

Screen Shot 2024 04 16 at 11.14.29 AM

In February 2018, Denver city leaders sent a valentine to foreigners interested in relocating to the progressive mountain city and a message to any elected officials looking to stop them:

Draped on Denver’s City and County building was a large, blue banner: “Denver ❤️ Immigrants.”

Then-mayor Michael Hancock event posted on social media that it was a statement of “love” to let immigrants know that Denver is “an open and welcoming city.” However, six years later, Denver residents are facing an uphill battle of repercussions from the liberal leaders’ actions. Amid a crisis that has seen more than 40,000 migrants arrive in the city since late 2022, Denver leaders have a new message: If you stay in Denver, you will suffer.

“The opportunities are over,” an official with new mayor Mike Johnston’s office told a gathering of migrants in Spanish inside a city shelter in late March, according to a video obtained by a local television station. “New York gives you more. Chicago gives you more.”

On Monday, Douglas County filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado and its Democratic governor Jared Polis in Denver District Court over the issue.

The lawsuit is challenging the constitutionality of two state laws passed by Democrats in the Colorado legislature: a 2019 law that restricted the ability of local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration officials in civil cases, and a 2023 law that prohibits local governments from entering or renewing detention agreements with ICE and that prohibits them from funding immigration detention facilities owned or operated privately.

“The nation is facing an immigration crisis. The nation, the state, and local governments need to cooperate and share resources to address this crisis,” the lawsuit states, adding that the 2019 and 2023 laws in question “prohibit the necessary cooperation and create dangerous conditions for the State and migrants.”

Teal contends that “the state doesn’t have the inherent authority to limit the ability of a local jurisdiction to work with any agency, regardless be it local, state, or federal.” By doing so, he said, “the state is inhibiting the local communities, the local jurisdictions from providing for the safety” of their residents.

“We are seeing what is going on in Denver, and we do not want that coming here to Douglas County. It is not safe,” Douglas County commissioner Lora Thomas, a former state trooper, said during a Monday morning press conference announcing the lawsuit.

Douglas commissioner Abe Laydon said on Monday that the lawsuit “is about putting America first and about putting Coloradans first.” As a Latino, he said, he recognizes “the plight of those seeking refuge and asylum here in the United States,” but he added that “Douglas County is a place where quality of life comes first.”

National Review reports on the mile-high city’s crisis:

In January, the city was housing and feeding almost 5,000 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, in hotel shelters. Other migrants slept in tents on sidewalks and in parking lots, adding a new wrinkle to Denver’s ongoing struggles with panhandling and squalid homeless camps.

At intersections throughout Denver, migrants with water bottles and squeegees head into traffic to try to make a few bucks washing drivers’ windshields.

To address a migrant-driven financial crunch, the city is now cutting hours at local rec centers, slashing park programming, and freezing hiring in some departments. To save a little money, the city has decided against planting flowers in some of its parks and medians this spring.

The migrant crisis has cost the Denver region at least $170 million, according to a conservative estimate by Colorado’s Common Sense Institute, which looked at city spending as well as school and hospital costs, and is almost surely an undercount.

Continue Reading

Trending