Obituaries - Fall 2020 | News Center - UNLV NewsCenter

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Obituaries - Fall 2020 | News Center - UNLV NewsCenter Obituaries - Fall 2020 | News Center - UNLV NewsCenter Posted: 08 Nov 2020 12:00 AM PST Stephen Brown Brown, professor of economics and former director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, died May 6. He joined the Lee Business School in 2010 as professor and the center's director. Several years later he took a position in the department of economics as a full-time professor, teaching courses in public finance and economic development, and doing research in energy economics. He was senior editor of the international academic journal  Energy Policy  and a University Fellow at Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank that specializes in energy, environmental, and natural resource economics. Felicia Campbell Campbell, UNLV's longest-serving faculty member, died July 27 of complications related to COVID-19. A member of the English d

Angry Undergrads Are Suing Colleges for Billions in Refunds - Bloomberg

Angry Undergrads Are Suing Colleges for Billions in Refunds - Bloomberg


Angry Undergrads Are Suing Colleges for Billions in Refunds - Bloomberg

Posted: 01 May 2020 03:25 PM PDT

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Angry Undergrads Are Suing Colleges for Billions in Refunds  Bloomberg

LAW SCHOOLS — How are college closings impacting graduating lawyers and accountants? | - Mississippi Business Journal

Posted: 01 May 2020 08:39 AM PDT

SUSAN DUNCAN

By LISA MONTI

Weeks before college students were set to graduate and enter the workforce to begin their careers, the pandemic upended the remainder of the school year and beyond. For students studying law and accounting in the state's colleges and universities, classes were shifted online as campuses closed and students returned home. Administrators quickly adopted new grading systems and began adjusting plans for graduation ceremonies, summer classes and the fall term. For some graduates, job prospects are in flux for now.

The decision to move the Ole Miss Law School classes online was made during spring break, which was extended by a week to make the switch beginning March 23. "The big push was to get the faculty trained and get them to where they felt comfortable" with the new online course management system, said Dean Susan Duncan. The faculty went all out to learn a new way of teaching, she said. "They really care about their students and they are trying to do their best to get them through this."

MARV BOUILLON

During the first week, students learned how to access the recorded lectures while the faculty stayed in close contact with them, adjusting workloads and making other refinements.

"By the second week, changes were made, everything was really resolved and there were fewer concerns," she said, as students and teachers became more familiar with the new arrangement.

Other changes followed, she said, including giving pass-fail instead of letter grades and allowing open book exams.  All the exams are being handled remotely and the last one is set for May 7. Graduation would have been May 9.

Summer classes all will be online as well. "We still don't know what fall is going to be. People are really hoping to be back in the classroom if they feel safe enough."

Meanwhile, students were waiting to see if their summer jobs would be affected and even when the state bar exam would be given. "Many states have already postponed theirs until the fall," Duncan said. "That's a real problem because student offers might be revoked if they haven't passed the bar."

Duncan said before the pandemic, the job market for lawyers was good, having rebounded after the Great Recession.

MATT STEFFEY

But even with uncertainty about the future, Duncan sees a silver lining in the new normal. "The faculty knows much more about using technology and how it can improve or enrich the classroom," she said.

The law students showed resilience and grit, which she said will serve them well in their profession and in life. "I've seen them rise to the challenge and be kind to others. It's not what anybody wanted to happen but it's been really heartwarming  to watch the students and faculty come together and support each other."

The Mississippi College School of Law moved classes online after extending spring break by a week, and gave students the option to take a class credit/no credit. Many students had experience with remote learning, and all faculty members "had some level of experience teaching some classes through online means," said Professor Matt Steffey. "That facilitated the quick pivot."

Graduation has been moved from May to August and summer classes will be online. "Then we expect to resume in-person classes in the fall," said Steffey. Everything is subject to change, though.

Steffey said finishing out the semester remotely has been "effective although not ideal." It has created a feeling of camaraderie, with "everybody facing the same set of emergency circumstances," though not everyone is affected equally. "It's not ideal but for adults in a professional school for half a semester, it happened as well as one could hope."

At the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Accountancy, the move to all-online classes was smooth because many classes already had been taught using a mix of online and face to face sessions, said Marv Bouillon, Director, School of Accountancy.

With the campuses closed, he said, "all of my meetings are done virtually," including student exit interviews and faculty meetings. For the most part, students are handling the new normal well, he said.

Graduation now is planned for late August, he said, "assuming everything straightens out by then." Summer school for the most part will be online, much like it was last year. He said fall classes are expected to be online and in classrooms "but with a few more online classes than normal."

The pandemic has put career plans in a holding pattern, he said. "A lot of them had spring internships and many of them got job offers before everything fell through," he said.

Even in all the uncertainty, public accounting firms are holding their own for the most part in what would be the busy tax season.

Many have been hired by businesses to fill out applications for government loans. "That's been a big deal," he said. With the tax deadline extended, summer will be busy filing taxes. "I'm hoping it gets back to normal but now many firms are working virtually just like we are for the most part."

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Class action: US college students sue for tuition refunds - Al Jazeera America

Posted: 01 May 2020 11:02 AM PDT

College students, kicked off campus by the coronavirus, have a new extracurricular activity: litigation.

U.S. undergraduates have sued more than 50 schools, demanding partial tuition, room-and-board and fee refunds after they shut down.

The proliferating breach-of-contract suits, many of them filed over the last week, target some of the biggest names in higher education: state systems including the University of California and Arizona State, as well as private institutions such as Columbia, Cornell and New York University.

The students' lawyers, advertising on sites such as Collegerefund2020.com, are seeking class-action status on behalf of hundreds of thousands of students. While legal experts say the suits face high hurdles, they could potentially involve billions of dollars in claims.

To justify annual prices that can top $70,000 a year, colleges have long advertised their on-campus experience, including close contact with professors and peers who will become a lifelong network.

Now, millions of students are instead studying online. Many of the suits are seeking compensation for the difference in value between the virtual and in-person experience. Plaintiffs include Grainger Rickenbaker, a freshman majoring in real estate management and development at Philadelphia's Drexel University, which charges more than $50,000 in tuition and another $16,000 in room, board and other fees.

"I am missing out on everything that Drexel's campus has to offer -- from libraries, the gym, computer labs, study rooms and lounges, dining halls," said Rickenbaker, 21, who is suing for a partial refund as he works remotely from his home in Charleston, South Carolina.

Most colleges declined to comment on the suits. The California State System said it would defend itself against a complaint that understates the services it's still providing. Arizona State said it was giving a $1,500 credit to all students who moved out of university housing by April 15.

Peter McDonough, general counsel for American Council on Education, a college trade group, said schools are battling circumstances outside their control. They're putting tremendous time and resources into supporting remote learning, while still paying professors and bearing other costs, he said.

"Faculty and staff are literally working around the clock," McDonough said. "We're in the middle of a catastrophe. Schools are doing their best to work their way through it."

Some colleges, including Harvard, Columbia, Middlebury and Swarthmore, have agreed to refund unused room and board. Others are offering credits or haven't decided what to do, according to Jim Hundrieser, a vice president at the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Payments can add up. Small residential institutions, for instance, may be refunding $2 million to $3 million, while large schools with several thousand on-campus students are likely to return $8 million to $20 million or more, Hundrieser said.

For individual students, the funds can be quite a boon in an economic crisis. A college charging about $8,000 for a semester's room and board that canceled midway might be sending students a check of about $4,000.

The federal suits vary in their demands. The Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston represents students at roughly a dozen schools, including Drexel, and is seeking a partial return of all unreimbursed payments.

In its suits on behalf of California public college students, Chicago-based DiCello Levitt Gutzler is asking only for the return of student fees for such items as transportation and student organizations, which can nevertheless total thousands of dollars a year.

Both the University of California and the California State systems have already agreed to return unused room-and-board. Cal State said it's still providing services, such as counseling, and will refund fees "that have been unearned by the campus."

bloomberg college graph

However the complaints are decided, they highlight the stakes for the $600 billion-plus a year higher education industry. Public universities rely on tuition and fees for 20% of their total revenues; private non-profit colleges, 30%, according to the most recent federal data.

In the fall, if many schools open only online, they would forfeit room and board fees and face pressure to charge less tuition. Many are predicting that the pandemic will put financially fragile institutions out of business.

Colleges can expect to see more suits soon, threatening what attorney Anthony Pierce called "an economic tsunami." On Thursday alone, students filed complaints against Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pennsylvania and Brown.

"The plaintiffs' bar sees an opportunity here," said Pierce, a partner heading the Washington office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP who recently alerted colleges about the suits' risks.

The outcome may depend on the paperwork both parties signed. Students are more likely to prevail if they can point to contract terms requiring specific services, according to Joe Brennan, a Vermont Law School professor who is tracking the litigation.

Students generally have housing contracts, just like renters of an apartment, said Barry Burgdorf, a former general counsel for the University of Texas system who is now at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Families typically don't have written agreements spelling out exactly what tuition covers.

Colleges will likely argue that they're excused from past obligations because the pandemic and government shutdown orders made the regular delivery of services impossible.

Even if students can't point to particular contract provisions, they're making claims of "unjust enrichment," arguing that it's unfair for the schools to profit from services they didn't provide.

Some of the suits are seeking compensation for what is known as "diminution of value," or the difference between the worth of an on-campus education and one delivered online.

Depending on how courts view any disparity, the sums could surpass housing refunds. (Many students, however, pay far less than those published tuition prices because of scholarships.)

Still, courts have been reluctant to try to value one type of degree over another, according to Burgdorf. Another challenge: If judges don't grant class-action status, most students wouldn't find it worthwhile to pursue claims on their own.

Some students, like Cornell senior Joshua Zhu, haven't signed on to a lawsuit but are cheering from the sidelines and could ultimately benefit. The 22-year-old information science major is logging on to classes from an off-campus apartment in Ithaca, New York, where he battles spotty Wi-Fi and misses working in an artificial intelligence lab.

"The tuition we paid to come to Cornell was with the expectation that we would have in-person classes and everything that came along with that," Zhu said. "It almost seems like a breach of contract."

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