Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

District judge approves $5.4 million settlement in tuition refund class action

File Photo by Kate Carpenter | Photographer
Kogan Plaza

GW reached a settlement in a lawsuit over the University’s 2020 switch to online classes, an agreement that will pay partial refunds to students forced to learn remotely because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon gave preliminary approval to the $5.4 million class-action settlement between GW and a group of students and parents who alleged GW breached its contract by failing to refund or reimburse students taking online classes in spring 2020. The agreement stipulates that the four plaintiffs will receive up to $10,000 each; the remainder of the fund will go to tuition refunds for students attending online classes that semester and to cover attorney fees.

The parties expect students who studied online in spring 2020 to receive about $193 each, per a notice sent to eligible recipients.

“The proposed Settlement Agreement is not an admission of wrongdoing by GW, and GW denies all allegations of wrongdoing and disclaims all liability with regard to all claims in the Lawsuit,” the notice to students reads.

GW officials moved nearly all classes online on March 10, 2020, after COVID-19 outbreaks in D.C. forced an end to all in-person events and meetings.

Mark Shaffer, a parent of a female student, filed the initial lawsuit in the D.C. District Court in 2020 to demand the University partially refund his daughter and all other students who paid for “tuition, fees and/or room and board” in the spring 2020 semester. The D.C. District Court dismissed the case in March 2021, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal in March 2022.

University spokesperson Julia Metjian said in a statement Wednesday that the University celebrates its quick transition to remote instruction in spring 2020, and Epiq Class Action & Claims Solutions, Inc. will provide more information about the settlement.

“The university has agreed to a settlement of the class action lawsuit regarding the transition to remote instruction during the Spring 2020 semester,” Metjian said in an email. “The settlement has been preliminarily approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. GW, like most universities around the country, was required to stop in-person instruction and activities during the Spring 2020 semester.”

Under the settlement agreement, GW will “use reasonable efforts” to provide a list of names and email addresses for students who took classes during the spring 2020 semester, along with email addresses for people listed as authorized users on students’ eBill accounts.

The court approved Epiq Class Action & Claims Solutions, Inc. to oversee notices and disbursement of settlement payments. The settlement agreement stipulates Epiq Class Action & Claims Solutions, Inc. will publish the notice to eligible students in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Objections to the settlement are due by March 9, and eligible students can request to be excluded from the class action by the same date, per the court order. The final approval hearing for the agreement will be held on April 2.

The plaintiff’s attorneys specified that no more than one-third of the settlement fund, or $1,782,000, would go toward attorneys’ fees.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Erika Filter, News Editor
Erika Filter is a senior majoring in international affairs from Carson City, Nevada. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editors and previously served as the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
Donate to The GW Hatchet