Thousands of students to get refunds as U of M settles lawsuit over 2020 fees

More than 50,000 people who were students at the University of Minnesota during the spring 2020 semester will get refunds under a recently approved settlement.

The lawsuit concerns the university’s mandatory fees during a time when classes shifted to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The two students leading the charge initially wanted partial tuition refunds, too, but that part was dismissed. The university previously implemented some refunds due to statewide COVID restrictions.

The covered fees are used for things like the university’s recreation and health centers, student association fees and capital improvement. However, during the pandemic, the students noted that many of those services weren’t available to students because of the imposed health restrictions. Their lawsuit states that they agree the restrictions were the proper move, however, say the students shouldn’t have to pay those fees if they aren’t able to utilize those benefits and services.

Under the settlement, the university will pay $3.25 million, one-third of which will go toward attorney’s fees. With more than 54,000 people having filed to be part of the class-action lawsuit, each person is expected to get somewhere between $38 and $40 refunded to them when attorney fees and costs are subtracted.

Judge Laurie Miller formally approved the settlement on Friday. Barring an appeal, the refund checks are expected to start being distributed sometime next month.

A spokesperson for the university told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“We are pleased to have this matter nearing resolution. While the University believes it appropriately refunded students in April 2020 through its comprehensive student refund plan — which refunded students $35.4 million, including fully prorated refunds for housing, dining and parking contracts, along with refunds of various student services fees — we are satisfied with the agreement reached in this case and are now focused on our role in concluding this process as promptly as possible.”