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Student Sues Princeton for Charging Full Tuition During COVID Lockdown

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A Princeton University student has filed a class-action lawsuit against the school for charging full tuition and fees for the 2020 Spring semester despite classes being fully online due to coronavirus restrictions. 

The class-action lawsuit was filed by Princeton sophomore Reid Zlotky at the US District Court of New Jersey. According to court records, the plaintiff charges Princeton for “breach of contract, breach of implied contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion” because it continued to charge full tuition and fees even though spring classes had been transitioned to remote learning.

The records further state that when Princeton shut down campus facilities and in-classroom instruction and shifted to “virtual online pre-recorded and/or live streaming video instruction,” the students were no longer getting what they paid for.

‘Substantially Lesser Value’

The lawsuit acknowledges that Princeton is not responsible for the closures or the inability to provide in-person class instruction. However, the burden should not be placed on the students, Zlotky argues.

Zlotky’s lawsuit acknowledges that Princeton’s actions are “attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic” and that the university is following executive orders of the State of New Jersey. However, it maintains that “defendant Princeton has unlawfully and unjustly retained plaintiff and class members’ tuition and fees.”

The lawsuit argues that the adjusted performance being provided by Princeton and the facilities that students can access “is different from and of substantially lesser value than what was bargained for” when the plaintiff and the students’ enrolled, so the fees should also be adjusted.

Seeking Relief

Zlotky filed the lawsuit on behalf of himself and to represent a class of all other students. The lawsuit claims that Princeton is “saddling innocent students with mounting debt.”

The university has “unjustly enriched” itself at the expense of the plaintiff and class members by retaining the same amount of tuition which amounted to $51,870 or $25,935 per semester for the 2020-21 academic year.

The suit seeks compensatory damages or restitution, attorney fees, and injunctive relief. Similar lawsuits have been filed at Columbia, Cornell, and Fordham University.

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