Rutgers agrees to pay $5 million in lawsuit over pandemic virtual learning

Money is coming back to the pockets of nearly 65,000 Rutgers University students as the school settles a class-action lawsuit filed by students forced to learn virtually during the pandemic.
The parents of one student filed the lawsuit in May. They wanted tuition money returned. Their argument was that their daughter was forced to learn virtually during the pandemic and that this was not what they paid for.
They say that they paid for in-person learning, full on-campus dorm living, a meal plan and the college experience at Rutgers. Specifically, the lawsuit says of Rutgers, "Defendant instead offers Plaintiff and the Class Members something far less: a limited online experience presented by Google or Zoom, void of face-to-face faculty and peer interaction."
Rutgers has agreed to pay $5 million to those who paid for the spring 2020 semester. The money will be paid out to 64,500 students. Rutgers says that each student will get roughly $63, which a superior court judge in Middlesex County agrees is appropriate.
“That’s about 12 cups of coffee. I can’t get much else with $60,” says student Jared Kowalik.
He says that he agrees that Rutgers should be paying something in return when one considers the online versus in-person experience.
“It’s not just the course materials of the classes. It’s learning with your classmates. It’s figuring out who you are as a college student. And that’s what all of these colleges are trying to sell,” he says.
The law firm that filed the Rutgers suit has filed similar suits at Duke, Boston University, Vanderbilt and USC among others that went remote to keep students from contracting COVID-19. The technical accusation they're using is a breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Sophomore Aaron Aquino will vouch for so many other students also disappointed in the online experience.
“It’s not the same as being in class,” he says. “After going to classes and stuff, I realize that I’m learning a lot more and I feel good about my day.”
Aquino says he is pleased to hear that Rutgers has stepped up and paid something, especially since the lawsuit noted earning a full bachelor’s degree fully online will cost a student $550 per credit hour, while it costs $942 per credit hour for in-person learning.
News 12 New Jersey reached out to Rutgers and the law firm for comment on the settlement but did not hear back.