Law360 (March 4, 2021, 10:41 PM EST) — Southern New Hampshire University has agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle a suit brought by students seeking tuition and fee refunds in the wake of pandemic-related closures, the students told a New Hampshire federal court Wednesday.
The deal appears to be the first of its kind as a slew of universities around the country continue to battle similar claims brought by students.
In her May 2020 proposed class action complaint, student Brianna Wright had alleged that the university breached its contract with its students by not providing in-person instruction during the spring semester 2020. Like most other universities, SNHU had shifted its classes online as COVID-19 tore through the country.
SNHU maintains that it didn’t breach its contract with students, but said that Wednesday’s proposed settlement is “best for SNHU’s learners.” Students will get partial refunds from the settlement fund, according to a statement from the university.
The deal was reached after mediation in late January, the students said in their motion seeking preliminary approval. The agreement takes into account the “uncertainty and risks inherent in any litigation, the desire to avoid the expenditure of further legal fees and costs and the benefits that students will receive,” they said in the motion.