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Class-action lawsuit seeks UW tuition refunds due to campus closure during pandemic

The University of Washington faces a class-action lawsuit alleging it continued to collect tuition during the pandemic without delivering the same campus experience.

A Seattle-based law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the University of Washington seeking refunded tuition and fees due to the campus’ closure during the coronavirus pandemic.

The complaint, which was filed Wednesday, alleges UW continued to charge students “as if nothing changed,” even though classes went online, events were canceled, many campus services were suspended and students were sent home in March.

Due to ongoing coronavirus activity, UW announced in August that more than 90% of its fall classes will be held online.

“UW’s renowned faculty, immersive on-campus experience and facilities are what it promised to students who would be attending,” Attorney Steve Berman, whose firm Hagens Berman filed the suit, said in a statement. “And it cannot be denied that during COVID-19, the winter and spring quarters at UW did not meet the university’s standards, nor its promises to tuition-payers.”

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Graduate student Alexander Barry, who is the lead plaintiff on the suit, claims he paid UW for “opportunities and services that he did not receive,” including in-person instruction, attending professors’ office hours and access to campus amenities.

When UW transitioned to online classes for the last two weeks of the winter quarter, UW spokesperson Victor Balta said it was to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders restricting businesses, schools and activities.

Going forward, Balta said the university was clear in their communications with students that most spring, summer and fall classes would continue to be remote, and students had time to reconsider whether to stay enrolled or withdraw without financial penalty.

Hagens Berman said it’s filed similar lawsuits against 15 other universities across the U.S., seeking tuition repayment.

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