Court dismisses students’ class action suit seeking partial refund for spring semester

George Barker, campus editor

On Thursday, United States District Judge Richard G. Stearns dismissed the summer lawsuit filed by two students against Northeastern University seeking a partial refund for the Spring 2020 semester due to the switch to remote learning in March.  

Graduate student Manny Chong and second-year Thana Gallo sued on the basis that Northeastern had breached the Financial Responsibility Agreement, or FRA, a contract that all students sign before each academic year, by failing to provide in-person classes and access to Northeastern facilities. However, each of their claims were dismissed, largely because of the fact that the FRA did not specify in-person classes.

“Northeastern argues that [the] plaintiffs fail to state a claim because they have not plausibly established that the [FRA] included a right to in-person instruction,” Stearns wrote. “The court agrees.”

When students sign the FRA, they are promising to “‘pay all tuition, fee, and other associated costs’ incurred as a result of ‘registering for any class or receiving any service from Northeastern,’” the memorandum states. Gallo paid $26,210 in tuition and $510 in other fees. Chong paid the university $23,400 in tuition plus $146 in other fees.

As part of their lawsuit, Chong and Gallo claimed that course registration documents deemed in-person learning a university-wide obligation as course descriptions assign classes to specific rooms and buildings on the Boston campus. However, Stearns ruled that the course descriptions were not part of the parties’ contract, leading to the case’s dismissal. 

“[The FRA] ties the payment of tuition to registration for courses, not to the receipt of any particular method of course instruction,” the court documents read.  

The court also denied the lawsuit’s other claims, rejecting both the plaintiffs’ motion to have campus recreation fees refunded and that Northeastern unjustly enriched itself by retaining students full tuition.