Two parents are suing UMD, Towson for partial tuition reimbursement after move online

The University of Maryland's Main Administration Building on May 15, 2020. (Julia Nikhinson/The Diamondback)

Two New Jersey parents filed a lawsuit against the University of Maryland and Towson University on Wednesday, demanding partial tuition reimbursement after the universities moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The two parents — one of whom has a child at the University of Maryland and one of whom has a child at Towson University — allege that the online classes their children are now attending are not equivalent to the in-person education and opportunities they paid for.

They filed the class action lawsuit in the Morris County Superior Court against both universities, as well as the University System of Maryland, on the behalf of “all others similarly situated.”

A system spokesperson declined to comment, and the lawyer representing the parents and spokespeople for Towson University did not respond to request for comment in time for publication. A spokesperson for this university deferred comment to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which did not respond to request for comment in time for publication.

The family of the student at this university declined to comment.

[Read more: Lawsuit alleges UMD fed gluten to a student with Celiac disease]

The lawsuit places the two parents, Glen Goldstein and Lisa Ambrosio, among a growing number of people suing universities for a refund of tuition and other fees. Similar suits have been filed against both public and private universities since April, ranging from the University of Michigan to Columbia University. 

“The online learning options being offered to USMD students are subpar in practically every aspect, from the lack of facilities, materials, and access to faculty,” the lawsuit reads. “Students have been deprived of the opportunity for collaborative learning and in-person dialogue, feedback, and critique. “

In April, the University of Maryland provided students refunds and/or prorated credits for room and board, as well as for other services, such as student facilities, parking and shuttle services.

Calculations for prorated credits are based on the time students used certain services — in this case, the time before students had to leave campus. The plaintiffs are demanding a refund of tuition from the day both universities closed in March through the rest of the spring semester.

[Read more: Coronavirus updates: The Diamondback’s ongoing coverage]

The suit cites content on both universities’ websites advertising the student on-campus experience and the comparatively lower cost of online-only classes at the University of Maryland Global Campus as evidence that remote learning is not equivalent to the in-person experience the plaintiffs paid for.

For example, the suit describes that, as a sophomore microbiology major at this university, Goldstein’s daughter, Rachael, is in a program that “relies extensively on in-person instruction, meaningful student presentations, peer collaboration, and access to laboratory facilities.”

“Even if Defendants did not have a choice in cancelling in-person classes, they nevertheless have improperly retained funds for services they are not providing,” the lawsuit reads.

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