Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University Sued For Not Refunding Fees Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Students at Liberty University are suing the evangelical school for refusing to refund campus fees despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing the administration to shift courses online.
The complaint was filed by an unnamed student on Monday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, joining several other similar lawsuits. Students from Drexel University and the University of Miami separately sued their schools for refunds last week as well.
“Liberty University is, in a very real sense, profiting from the COVID-19 pandemic — keeping its campus and campus services ‘open’ as a pretext to retain Plaintiff’s and the other Class members’ room, board, and campus fees, despite no longer having to incur the full cost of providing those services, all the while putting students’ finances and health at risk,” the lawsuit alleged.
The university garnered negative media attention when it decided to reopen the campus.
Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. told Politico that reports of the campus reopening were “overblown” and confirmed that all classes are online. He said 1,000 and 2,000 students returned to campus, with nearly 1,000 of them being “international students who have nowhere else to go.”
The lawsuit alleges that any student who did not return to campus dormitories was offered a $1,000 credit, a “mere fraction” of what the school actually owes.
The complaint does not “presently include tuition costs,” but seeks refunds for campus services that have been suspended.
Liberty University said in a statement the lawsuit does not have legal merit and is an attempt to “profit from a public health crisis.”
“While it’s not surprising that plaintiff class action attorneys would seek to profit from a public health crisis, we don’t believe this law firm or its single client speaks for the vast majority of our students,” Liberty said. “Similar class-action suits are pending against other schools, and such claims will no doubt be made against other higher education institutions that changed how they operate and deliver services to students in the face of COVID-19.”