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Move to online classes during pandemic prompts lawsuit seeking tuition rebates from Purdue Fort Wayne

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Purdue Fort Wayne is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a spring semester student seeking tuition rebates because in-person instruction was abandoned in favor of online classes during the pandemic.
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - A new headache surfaces for Purdue Fort Wayne related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trustees of Purdue University have been hit with a lawsuit named on behalf of a Purdue Fort Wayne student seeking rebates on tuition and fees because of the novel coronavirus.

A law firm out of South Carolina wants the case certified as a class action suit, favoring plaintiff Elijah Seslar and others in the student body, who the suit claims didn't get what they paid for this spring semester.

The suit argues that Seslar paid full price for an in-person education this spring and should get pro-rated rebates on tuition and fees because halfway through Purdue Fort Wayne dialed things back to online classes only.

Elijah Seslar is a business student at Purdue Fort Wayne.

The Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston, South Carolina has filed close to two dozen lawsuits against U.S. universities, including one against I.U. Bloomington, over tuition refunds related to the pandemic.

The Seslar lawsuit doesn't criticize Purdue Fort Wayne for shutting down in-person instruction in March, acknowledging the move to protect public health was the right thing to do.

But it maintains that students such as Seslar simply deserve some of their money back.

"If you and I go down to the local restaurant and order a steak for lunch and pay for it, and they come out and say, hey, we can't give you a steak, we can only give you a hamburger, that's fine. It's still lunch, but they don't get to keep all the money that we paid for the steak. They've got to rebate us so that we're paying market value for what we actually received," said Roy Willey with the Anastopoulo Law Firm, who is the lawyer for Seslar.

Purdue Fort Wayne released a statement about the suit Thursday, saying, "It is sadly predictable that opportunistic lawyers would attempt to profit from this unprecedented public health crisis that’s affected us all.  The suit is baseless and has no chance of ultimate success.  Regardless, we continue to look to identify ways to assist our students who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.  Efforts such as our $2.7 million disbursement of CARES Act funds to those eligible for this assistance, and the continuation of our supplemental COVID-19 Student Relief Fund initiated in March, remain high priorities for the university."

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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