California Student Sues School for Partial Refund Due to Lack of In-Person Learning

By Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte
October 18, 2021 Updated: October 19, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, many colleges and universities sent their students home for online learning. For many college seniors, this meant not only the loss of on-campus resources, but also the loss of their final months of the college experience.

Now students across the country are suing their universities to seek reimbursement for the months they spent learning online during the spring 2020 semester.

A California Lutheran University student is suing the school for not partially refunding tuition and fees after students were denied in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Angeleno Nicolas Montalvo’s proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Oct. 15, alleging a breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and theft of property.

“We filed this case on behalf of all the students at Cal Lutheran who, during the spring 2020 semester, paid the full amount of tuition and fees for access to campus facilities, labs, libraries, technologies, and all the other benefits that campus-based in-person educational experience provides. At the same time, Cal Lutheran was unable to provide the full amount of services and yet decided to keep the full amount of tuition and fees,” Jon Tostrud, the plaintiff’s attorney, told The Epoch Times.

The lawsuit states that Montalvo and other students were deprived of access to libraries, laboratories, computer labs, study rooms, and other valuable components of the university, such as classroom dialogue, collaboration, and feedback.

Tostrud says the university’s decision to keep the full amount of tuition and fees while not providing the full amount of services violated contract law in California.

The suit requests that the university reimburse tuition for prorated tuition and mandatory fees, adjusted to the amount of time when classes switched to online learning on March 13, 2020, for all students enrolled during the spring 2020 semester.

“The potential [opposition] is that the COVID-19 pandemic was not the university’s fault, obviously, but it was also equally obviously not the student’s fault,” Tostrud said. “So the university [does not have] the right to keep the full amount of tuition and fees when the students did not get what they signed up for, in terms of services.”

Tostrud didn’t provide the approximate amount that Montalvo would receive should he win the lawsuit, but said it was in the “thousands.”

According to the lawsuit, Cal Lutheran charged Montalvo approximately $11,360 in tuition and more than $1,400 in fees for the spring 2020 semester.

Cal Lutheran’s tuition is about $45,500 per year for full-time undergraduate students, with an approximate addition of $512 in fees, according to the school’s website.

A Cal Lutheran University spokesperson verified to The Epoch Times that the institution had received the lawsuit, but declined to comment further.

Cal Lutheran began offering some in-person outdoor classrooms in fall 2020. The Thousand Oaks campus returned to in-person learning for the fall 2021 semester.