Lawsuit calls university’s practices "immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious"
Pepperdine University is the latest school to be sued in a class-action lawsuit seeking reimbursement for tuition, room and board and other costs amid its COVID-19-related campus closure, according to attorneys at Hagens Berman.
"Defendant continues to charge full tuition and fees as if full services and facilities are being provided, collecting millions of dollars from students deprived of the full benefit of their payments," the lawsuit states. "Defendant’s practices are immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous or substantially injurious because it deprives Plaintiff and Class Members of their bargained for educational experience, opportunities, and access to facilities, and forces students and families to bear the burden of Pepperdine’s COVID-19 related shutdown."
The lawsuit was filed June 3, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and accuses the university of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, conversion and violations of California law. The law firm representing the parent of the Pepperdine University student has also brought similar lawsuits against Boston University, Brown University, Duke University, Emory University, George Washington University, Hofstra University, University of Miami, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and Washington University in St. Louis for failure to refund tuition-payers for their losses.
"Simply put, Pepperdine students experienced significantly less than what they were promised in their spring 2020 semester,’" said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for students in the class action. "While they were barred access from the university’s campus, dorms, dining halls, libraries, athletic facilities and other amenities, their tuition was still pocketed by Pepperdine. We don’t think that’s right."
The lawsuit highlights that Pepperdine University touts its location and campus as a major selling point to potential students, as well as its promise to develop "the next generation of leaders through rigorous academics, faculty mentorship, and a robust campus life," with benefits including small classes, campus environment and individual attention from "teacher-mentors."
Pepperdine requires its first and second-year students to live on campus.
Pepperdine University Sued by Tuition Payers
The parent bringing the lawsuit, a Texas resident, lost much of what he paid for in his son’s tuition, the suit says.
"With Pepperdine’s campus closure and transition to an online-only educational experience, Plaintiff’s son suffered a decreased quality of experience, education, and lost access to important university facilities and experiences that were bargained for by selecting in-person experiences," it reads, adding that the student lost access to libraries, in-person professor office hours and more.
As of June 30, 2019, Defendant’s endowment totaled approximately $887.46 million and the university ended the fiscal year with assets totaling more than $1.96 billion, the lawsuit states. In 2017, Defendant raised $562,049 in just 37 hours for the inaugural Give2Pepp campaign. For its spring 2020 semester, Pepperdine cost tuition payers $27,820 for tuition, approximately $7,835 for room and board and $126 for a campus life fee.
Other Affected Universities
Hagens Berman is investigating the rights of those who are currently paying for room and board, and/or tuition at all U.S. colleges and universities that have been forced to close due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This may include parents, guardians or college students who are paying for their own costs of college.
Despite orders from colleges and universities sending home students and closing campuses, these institutions of higher learning continue to charge for tuition and room and board. Collectively, these institutions are continuing to receive millions from students despite their inability to continue school as normal, or occupy campus buildings and dorms.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with nine offices across the country. The firm’s tenacious drive for plaintiffs’ rights has earned it numerous national accolades, awards and titles of "Most Feared Plaintiff’s Firm," and MVPs and Trailblazers of class-action law. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.