Liberty University Accused of Profiting Off Pandemic

Student sues in effort to have fees refunded
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2020 7:23 AM CDT
Liberty University Accused of Profiting Off Pandemic
In this Nov. 16, 2016, file photo, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., poses during an interview in his offices at the school in Lynchburg, Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

A new lawsuit accuses Liberty University of profiting off the coronavirus pandemic by offering reduced services while refusing to refund student fees. The class-action suit—filed Monday by "Student A," who opted for anonymity "out of fear of retaliation and harassment"—claims Liberty allowed students to return to campus in Lynchburg, Va., even as classes and religious services moved online, so as to justify holding onto student fees which, excluding the cost of tuition, range from $9,200 to $16,000 for the academic year, per CNN. The evangelical school has said it welcomed back students with no safer place to go. Some 1,900 had returned as of March 24, with up to 5,000, or roughly a third of the student population, expected. But the campus "did not reopen" and "looks like a ghost town," President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in late March.

Student activities are canceled, recreation centers are closed, and food service offers take-out only. Liberty said "certain students who have opted to move from the residence halls" would receive a credit of $1,000 toward the fall semester. But it doesn't apply to non-returning students, excluding graduates, and students had to opt-in by March 28, the suit claims. "When Liberty has shut down the majority of student services for the rest of the semester … it should not be allowed to keep the fees paid by students to run those operations," a lawyer for the plaintiff tells WSET. Liberty now accuses counsel of trying to "profit from a public health crisis." Changes in operations have been "required by governmental officials," which "leaves the plaintiffs without a legal case," it says. Similar lawsuits have been filed against Drexel University and the University of Miami. (Read more Liberty University stories.)

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