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Student Sues Rice University, Demands Refund for Online Learning During COVID

A Rice University student, unhappy about paying full tuition for an online education during the COVID-19 pandemic, is demanding a refund, reports Brittany Britto in the January 19th issue of the Houston Chronicle.

"Undergraduate student Anna Seballos and her lawyers filed a lawsuit against Rice Jan. 11, stating that the private college touted and promised an 'unconventional culture' and college experience, complete with in-person courses and opportunities, but breached its contract by failing to provide those services. The university, however, still charged students full price," Britto said.

The lawsuit contends that “Plaintiff and the members of the Class have all paid for tuition for a first-rate education and on-campus, in-person educational experiences, with all the appurtenant benefits offered by a first-rate university. [Instead], students like plaintiff were provided a materially different and insufficient alternative, which constitutes a breach of the contracts entered into by plaintiff with the University."

Rice shifted its courses fully online in March at the beginning of the pandemic in the Houston area and offered a mix of in-person, online and hybrid courses in the fall to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

But writes Britto, the lawsuit counters that the offerings did not compare to in-person courses, experiences and opportunities the university promised or contractually agreed to through various documents and materials provided to students.

The university charges students more than $30,000 a semester for tuition, room and board, and various fees related to student activities, health and wellness support, and courses, the suit says. Seballos paid $24,503 for tuition and fees, and about $7,100 for room, board, a meal plan, and student recreation fee — of which 38 percent was refunded, court documents state.

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