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Lawsuit claims Rice University didn't provide expected college experience due to pandemic restrictions

The new lawsuit seeks class-action status and more than $5 million in damages for students who paid full Spring 2020 tuition and fees.

HOUSTON — A federal lawsuit claims students attending Rice University are owed compensation because they did not get the college experience they paid for after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Houston last year.

The lawyers filed the lawsuit on Jan. 11 and are seeking class-action status and claim damages exceed $5 million.

Neither the lawyers nor the university wanted to discuss the lawsuit, which claims Rice University student Anna Seballos and her peers paid more than $24,000 in tuition and fees for the Spring 2020 semester.

The lawyers said on March 9, life on campus changed because of the pandemic. They said the university transitioned to online-instruction only and closed facilities and canceled student services.

Lawyers said this continued for the duration of the semester and because students paid up-front for things they were promised, but never received, it’s a breach of contract.

Students on campus on Tuesday saw both sides of the argument.

“I feel like students should get their money’s worth," one student told KHOU. "And if they’re not being allowed to use the facilities because of safety concerns, which is perfectly valid, yeah, reimburse them.”

Another student said charging full price is necessary.

“Even if you think your quality of education is lower, the professors are still doing the best they can, and the university can’t pay them if you don’t pay tuition," the student said.

Rice isn't the only Houston school where students say they’re not getting what they pay for because of the pandemic restrictions.

An online petition requesting the University of Houston to drop its mandatory fees for remote learning has more than 5,000 signatures.

The fees include charges for the Health and Wellness Center and University Center, which the petition claims can’t be used because of social distancing.

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