SALT LAKE CITY — A Dixie State University student has sued the Utah System of Higher Education claiming the online classes that public colleges and universities pivoted to in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic “are subpar in practically every aspect.”
The class-action lawsuit, filed in Utah’s U.S. District Court by student Ariiyana Ringgold, claims students paid tuition for “a first-rate education and educational experience, with all the appurtenant benefits offered by a first-rate university and were provided a materially deficient and insufficient alternative, which constitutes a breach of the contracts entered into by plaintiff and the class with the university.”
The lawsuit names the state’s higher education system and the 18-member Utah Board of Higher Education as defendants, which includes two student board members.
Utah System of Higher Education officials declined to comment, as did the Utah Attorney General’s Office, which represents the state’s higher education system.
The lawsuit claims students paid mandatory fees for services and facilities that were not provided, which also represents a breach of contract.
The lawsuit also claims students only received partial refunds of housing costs if they complied with strict move-out dates.
Ringgold, a Nevada resident, paid to attend the spring 2020 semester at Dixie State University as a full-time undergraduate student.
She paid tuition and mandatory fees to obtain an in-person, on-campus educational experience, and participate in the activities and use services covered by fees.
“She has not been provided just compensation for the taking of the tuition paid for her in-person classes that were discontinued and moved online, or the mandatory fees she paid after Dixie State’s facilities were closed or access was severely limited and events were canceled,” the lawsuit states.
This constituted a breach of contract and reduction in benefits, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit seeks “just compensation for the tuition and mandatory fees paid, proportionate to the reduction in contracted for services provided during the time that remained in the spring semester 2020” when campuses were closed and students were moved to virtual learning.
The lawsuit’s claims also include the summer 2020 term.
The lawsuit elaborates on the allegedly “subpar” nature of instruction students received:
“During the online portion of the semesters, the universities offered some classes through Zoom. Other classes, however, stopped providing the students with any lectures at all and required that the students learn on their own and turn in assignments when due. Therefore, there was a lack of classroom interaction among teachers and students and among individual students that is instrumental in interpersonal skill development.”
It notes that online formats used by the universities do not require memorization or the development of strong study skills given the absence of any possibility of being called on in class.
It also claims the ability to receive a pass/no pass grade rather than a letter grade provides “educational leniency” that the students would not otherwise have with an in-person letter grading education that students paid for and expected.
Ringgold is the only plaintiff but her attorneys are seeking to make it a class-action suit.
In August, a Brigham Young University student sued the private school alleging similar claims.