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N4T Investigators: Students sue UArizona over COVID-19 refunds

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Lawsuits are starting to pile up against the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University over the way they have handled, or possibly mishandled student fees during COVID-19.

Those fees are paid for things including dorms and meal plans. These are things that students and parents paid for, but then they were told to leave campus, and didn't get to take their cash with them.

"I would certainly call it a necessary thing. I would certainly call it a fair thing, and I would certainly call it the right thing to do," said attorney Adam Levitt, regarding the refunds now being sought by students.

Multiple lawsuits regarding the issue have been filed in both federal and state courts. They allege Arizona universities failed to fully refund students for those mandatory fees for housing and meal plans, even after classes were moved off-campus last spring.

"These things that were supposed to be available to us, or either really hard to get to, or not available at all," UArizona student Elliot Meyer told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Many amenities have been closed, or access to them has been severely limited in the ongoing effort to slow the spread of the virus.

"I would hope to come back here next year, but I don't really know. i've been thinking about it, so don't know," said UArizona student, Dylan Awll.

The university is telling students who left campus housing that it will give them a 10% credit. Students moving into campus housing this fall can apply for a 20% credit to this school year's rent.

We wanted to know why students who do not want to live on-campus next year get less of a discount.

When the News 4 Tucson Investigators called the number listed for the UA Housing Director, the office first told us they did not know how to reach him. They then said he would call back, but then told us we should call the university's marketing team.

"This should not be a cat-and-mouse game; this should not be hide-and-seek," attorney Levitt told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators also called the Arizona Board of Regents, who oversees the state's universities, to get their response to the lawsuit.

A member of their communications department told us that the board cannot comment on pending litigation.

"It has to set the right example for its students, and step-up and honor its obligations," Levitt concluded.

Refund or not, it's now up to the courts to decide. A win means students would potentially get their money back.

If you have a story you'd like for us to investigate, call our tip line 520-955-4444 or email us at investigators@kvoa.com

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Investigative Producer for KVOA News 4 Tucson. He is a three time Edward R. Murrow award winner, native Tucsonan, and a proud Arizona Wildcat.

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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