A Partners for College Affordability and Public Trust (Partners) coalition is calling for a “Tuition Payer Bill of Rights” that would constitute a series of “long-overdue” consumer protections ensuring that students receive the educational services they paid for.
“For any other investment the size of college tuition, there are fundamental consumer rights in place to make sure that consumers are fully informed of the cost and benefits of the services for which they are paying, and they have a recourse if these are not delivered,” said Dr. James Toscano, president of Partners.
The initiative comes after more than 100 class action lawsuits have been filed against academic institutions across the country for “breach of services delivered.” Additionally, according to a Partners press release, 93% of surveyed students said college tuition should be reduced if all classes are held online this fall.
“COVID-19 has illuminated the long over-due need for basic consumer protections for those who are struggling to pay for the cost of college,” said Toscano. “As we saw in the spring when campuses were forced to close, colleges and universities cannot guarantee delivery of the quality of instruction, services and benefits they advertise. Still, very few are offering tuition discounts or are refunding fees, and in fact, some are actually raising their tuition.”
A petition created by the Partners coalition is asking that schools provide advertised benefits or refunds for breach of delivery and that students and their families be entitled to:
- the right to opt out of paying fees for non-essential services;
- the right to the option of no-cost online texts and materials;
- the right to financial transparency by institutions in pricing, billing and spending;
- the right to know the value of a degree before enrolling;
- the right to address college governing boards before decisions are made.
The petition will eventually be presented to institutions and their trustees/associations as part of the coalition’s campaign for the adoption of the Tuition Payer Bill of Rights.