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Class action lawsuit against Wartburg College asks for tuition refunds after COVID-19 forced closures

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WAVERLY, Iowa (KWWL) – A class action lawsuit was filed Monday in Bremer County against Wartburg College. Plaintiff Sydney Warner, on behalf of others affected by the pandemic, is asking for tuition and other fees to be refunded.

Warner is a music student, who along with others feel they paid too much for what they were given after COVID-19 restrictions were put in place on campus. Wartburg moved to online instruction on March 18, 2020, along with many other colleges and universities across the country.

An attorney working on the case says he’s confident in getting the students their money.

“We’re only looking at cases that we think are viable and that we think can be successful and make a difference for the students,” attorney Bart Goplerud said.

There have been many lawsuits of this nature, which have been dismissed across the country. The majority of those cases being focused on how education was of lesser quality during the remote learning phase of the pandemic.

The lawsuit against Wartburg is a bit different.

“Those cases sought to obtain a tuition refund based on that there was a lesser education, or that the quality wasn’t the same,” Goplerud said, “Whereas here, our claim is focused on the in person opportunities, or the in-person experiences, that were promised by the colleges or universities.”

The lawsuit lists many on-campus experiences such as face-to-face instruction, extracurricular activities, access to on-campus facilities, and hands-on learning.

“They shut down the gyms, they shut down the labs, they shut down the libraries. They shut down all the opportunities for the student to experience campus life,” he said.

A semester at Wartburg College can cost over $21,000, not including any extra class fees.

Students who were forced to finish their 2020 Spring semester online. The lawsuit contends their college experience was in no way equivalent to what it was before the pandemic.

“While the colleges and the universities did an excellent job in protecting the students from COVID exposure, in doing so they shut down the opportunity to enjoy that on-campus personal experience,” Goplerud said.

Room and board are currently not included to be refunded in this lawsuit, but could be added after additional review.

Wartburg is offering a tuition-free fifth year for any full-time 2020-2021 senior and freshman.

The ongoing discussion or any type of resolution could take anywhere between 18 months and 4 years.

KWWL did reach out to Wartburg College for comment, but were unable to speak on pending litigation.

Read the Sydney Warner v. Wartburg College lawsuit here:

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