Quinnipiac agrees to $2.5 million settlement in COVID tuition refund case

Melina Khan, Editor-in-Chief

Quinnipiac University preliminarily agreed to a $2.5 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by two students that sought refunds for tuition and other expenses during the school’s shift to online learning in March 2020. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, current student Zoey Metzner and former student Dominic Gravino, filed a motion for the settlement’s preliminary approval in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on Dec. 2, according to documents obtained by the Chronicle. 

The lawsuit was filed in June 2020 on behalf of Metzner. Gravino later joined the suit, as well as two parents of then-students. The former students alleged Quinnipiac breached a contractual agreement to provide an in-person educational experience when it transitioned to remote learning. 

Infographic by Peyton McKenzie

If the settlement is approved by the Court, the proceeds will be divided equally among all members of the settlement class, which includes all students who were not on a full scholarship in the spring 2020 semester, totalling approximately 9,200 people, according to the motion. 

The attorneys wrote that each student is projected to receive “a few hundred dollars in cash,” via check, Venmo or PayPal. The plaintiffs’ counsel also applied for an award of one-third the settlement total to cover their fees. 

According to the motion, Quinnipiac agreed to settle the case “to avoid the time, inconvenience, costs and uncertainty,” of continued litigation. It also said Quinnipiac’s agreement to settle is so that it can focus on “continuing to provide top quality education and services to its students.” 

Quinnipiac denied claims that it breached any contracts with students or that it was unjustly enriched as a result of the shift to remote learning in the spring 2020 semester. 

John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, wrote in a statement to the Chronicle that the resolution of the case will allow university officials to “focus the university’s time and resources on supporting our students’ educational needs.” 

“We remain very proud of our faculty and staff and the great lengths they went to ensure our students were able to safely and successfully complete the Spring 2020 semester and earn course credit toward degree completion in the face of an unprecedented global pandemic,” Morgan wrote. 

The plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote in the motion that the settlement is “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” and that by settling, the case “will be accomplished years earlier than if the case proceeded to judgment.” The attorneys did not respond to the Chronicle’s request for comment as of publication. 

The lawsuit also accused the university of unjust enrichment and conversion, but a federal court in March 2021 dismissed the conversion claims because the students used the same allegations as the breach of contract claims. 

U.S. District Judge Kari Dooley also ruled at the time that the two parents named as plaintiffs had no standing to sue because the alleged actions were between Quinnipiac and its students. 

The students sought a partial refund for “themselves and all other similarly situated students,” for services they alleged they paid for but Quinnipiac did not provide. 

“They selected on-campus courses and paid for the in-class and educational experiences that only an in-person program can deliver, such as the ability to access important university facilities, services, and faculty in-person,” the motion said. 

CORRECTION 12/9: A previous version of this story said Metzner was a former student at Quinnipiac