Legislation to Limit COVID-19 Related College Refunds Advances

Trenton – In response to many colleges moving classes online at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate Higher Education Committee today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal which would limit the responsibility of higher education institutions to refund tuition for in-person instruction cancelled due to COVID-19.

“Since the start of remote learning, colleges including Drexel, the University of Miami, and Brown have had class-action lawsuits filed against them in response to their decision to charge full, or near-full, tuition to students who cannot access in-person education as a result of COVID-19,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “While many New Jersey schools did refund a number of student expenses such as room and board colleges should not be responsible for refunding tuition as long as instruction is still occurring.”

The bill, S-2706, would provide that if an institution of higher education cancels in-person instruction due to COVID-19, the institution will not be required to issue a refund of student tuition and fees for that in-person instruction. This will only be applicable to colleges that continue to offer instruction in a virtual or remote format and make an effort to refund a prorated portion of qualified student expenses. Additionally, colleges would be prohibited from charging additional fees for virtual or remote instruction due to the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency and state of emergency.

Under this bill, qualified student expenses that colleges would be expected to refund to students include payments made by a student for on-campus student housing and a meal plan, or such payments made on behalf of a student through a student loan.

The bill cleared committee by a vote of 3-2.