online learning

By decision of 8 March 2022, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia partly overturned a lower court ruling and restored the lawsuit filed by students at George Washington University and American University (case No. 21-7040). Students had claimed that the Universities violated contractual commitments when they transitioned to online educational activities and declined to refund any portion of the students' tuition payments and fees.

According to the Court of Appeals, the Columbia District Court did not err in dismissing plaintiffs’ claims that the universities breached express contracts promising in-person educational instruction, activities, and services in exchange for tuition and fees. However, in the appellate court’s view, plaintiffs’ complaints plausibly allege that the universities breached implied-in-fact contracts for in-person education.

The issue relating to the existence in university contracts of an express or implied contractual clause providing for in-person education is currently being scrutinized by several federal Courts (see the story we published on 16 February 2022; in that case, the District Court of New York ruled that students could not claim refunds of the tuition costs as they failed to show that NYU promised in-person education in exchange for tuition).

Full text of the decision available at en