GWU To Pay $5.4 Million In Covid Lawsuit Over Online-Only Instruction

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Jan 08, 2024 - 11:50 AM

Many American colleges are suffering from a different kind of "long Covid" -- as they're fighting off breach-of-contract lawsuits for forcing students into online-only instruction in March 2020 as pandemic hysteria swept the nation. 

The latest victim of the litigation wave is one of the country's most expensive schools: George Washington University has agreed to pay $5.4 million to former students who sued the DC institution after it suddenly turned into a glorified version of the University of Phoenix. The school not only nixed almost all in-person instruction, but also banned in-person events and meetings. Tuition alone costs $64,700 for the current academic year at GW. Counting room, board and other expenses, the total estimated cost of attendance is $85,740.  

Last year, GW dropped its Colonials athletics nickname in favor of "Revolutionaries;" those who are wary of surging campus Marxism shuddered (George Washington University photo)

Four plaintiffs will receive $10,000 each, and the rest of the money will be disbursed as a measly $193 tuition refund for other students who were similarly cheated in the 2020 spring semester. Eligible students can file objections and exclude themselves from the class action suit up until March 11, and thereby retain the power to file suits of their own. They'll also have an opportunity to make a statement about the settlement's fairness an an April 2 hearing. Plaintiffs attorneys stand to receive $1.78 million.      

The school isn't contrite. “The proposed Settlement Agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing by GW," the university said in a notice to students. "GW denies all allegations of wrongdoing and disclaims all liability with regard to all claims in the Lawsuit.” A spokeswoman went even further, saying the school is proud of its rapid move to online-only instruction. 

Amusingly, among those cheering on GW's settlement is one of the school's very own law professors. John Banzhaf, who's been called "the king of class action lawsuits," had warned colleges that they were inviting litigation by fundamentally altering the university experience while charging the same price. As US District Judge Jose Martinez wrote in an October 2020 ruling against Barry University, "This is kind of like purchasing a Cadillac at full price and receiving an Oldsmobile."

The GW suit was filed in 2020, dismissed by the DC District Circuit in 2021, but revived by the US Court of Appeals in 2022. Meanwhile, hundreds more lawsuits are in flight across the country. As Inside Higher Ed explains...

Most allege that the university defendant breached a contract with its students—either express or implied—by taking tuition and enforcing payment obligations without upholding its end of the “college-experience” bargain, while some add claims for unjust enrichment and conversion as well.

Many were filed in 2020, but others continue sprouting. While a great many schools have a litigation sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, others have already paid a price, with at least one shelling out multiples of what GW is poised to pay. In 2022, Columbia agreed to a $12.5 million settlement, to cover reimbursement for lack of access to the school's libraries, gyms and other campus assets. Cornell did much better, settling in September for $3 million. Penn is on the hook for $4.5 million. Joe Biden alma mater Delaware will pay $6.3 million

America's colleges are bracing for an enrollment cliff that will see a steep decline in high school graduates starting in 2025. With those clouds gathering, paying out millions of well-deserved dollars will be all the more painful for these colleges. The suits will not only benefit collegiate victims of 2020's madness -- they should also incentivize administrators to think twice before mindlessly bending to the guidance of the "public health" establishment.