University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University Accused of Inadequate COVID-19 Response in Class Action Lawsuit
CHICAGO – March 27, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has placed financial pressures on nearly every American, and the conduct of three Arizona universities under the Arizona Board of Regents’ supervision has only exacerbated these challenges for more than 100,000 college students and their families, according to a class action lawsuit filed today in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The suit, filed against the Arizona Board of Regents, asserts that the universities it oversees – the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University – refused to refund the cost of room, board and certain other campus fees for the spring 2020 academic semester, after the coronavirus outbreak forced their campuses to close.
As has become routine nationwide, the Arizona Board of Regents and the Universities recently announced that due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, all classes would be moved online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester. Students who lived in on-campus housing were either told they had to move out or were strongly encouraged to do so. Because all classes were moved online, there was no reason for students to remain on campus if they had other housing available to them, particularly as nearly all services their fees covered were suspended. Most students, therefore, chose to leave campus to be closer to their families, or to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
Despite constructively evicting the students for the remainder of the semester and ending all campus activities for at least that same time period, the Board of Regents has refused to offer refunds for the unused portion of their room and board and their campus fees—a course of conduct that harms hundreds of thousands of students and their families. The lawsuit seeks disgorgement of the prorated, unused amounts of room and board and fees that the class members paid but were unable to use.
“While the universities were prudent in closing their campuses and encouraging students to vacate their on-campus housing, it is unconscionable for them to attempt to keep the many thousands of dollars in room and board feeds they collected from each student, even though they have terminated the services that these fees covered,” said Adam Levitt, partner at DiCello Levitt Gutzler, and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “College is already a monumental expense for students and their families, and to essentially offer them no relief, particularly during a time when millions of Americans are hurting financially, is woefully inadequate, tone-deaf, and needs to be made right. That’s what we aim to do with this lawsuit – encourage accountability, empathy, and simple fairness.”
For the 2019-2020 academic year, undergraduate room and board fees alone (which exclude tuition) at the University of Arizona were $13,350. They were $13,510 at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, and $10,780 at Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus.
To date, Arizona State and Northern Arizona students have not been offered or provided any refund of their fees. Meanwhile, the University of Arizona offered only nominal rent credit options (either 10% of 2019-2020 housing costs or 20% of 2020-2021 housing costs)—which are designed to drive additional revenue to that school by requiring students to commit to living on campus in future semesters to obtain the benefit of the percentage discount option.
“U of A has refused to return to students the full pro-rated, unused portion of their room and board payments for the semester, and a small housing credit for the next academic year is useless for any student who did not intend to live on-campus during the 2020-2021 academic year,” Levitt said. “Residence halls in Arizona are not designed to safely house students in the event of a pandemic and, in order to stay safe, the great majority were forced to move out in order to practice safe, social distancing in accordance with recommendations by the CDC, and rightfully encouraged by the universities. These students’ lives have been turned upside down in the wake of the global pandemic, and all they and their families are asking is to not be required to pay for services that they are not presently receiving.”
In addition to Levitt, the plaintiffs are represented by Amy E. Keller and Laura E. Reasons, also of DiCello Levitt Gutzler LLC; Matthew S. Miller of Matthew S. Miller LLC and Robert D. Ryan, of the Law Offices of Robert D. Ryan, P.L.C.
The case is Rosenkrantz v. Arizona Board of Regents, in the U.S. District Court of the District of Arizona, Case No. 2:20-CV-00613 (D. Ariz.)
A copy of the complaint can be provided upon request and the attorneys are available for media interviews.
About DiCello Levitt
DiCello Levitt combines excellence in commercial litigation, class action litigation, mass tort litigation, catastrophic injury litigation, medical malpractice litigation, and civil rights litigation. Practicing nationwide—and internationally—from offices in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, and St. Louis, we are an aggressive, attentive, and creative plaintiffs’ firm whose work speaks for itself—billions of dollars in recoveries in some of the highest-profile matters in U.S. history. Revered by clients and respected by defense counsel, our team gets results.