Florida Colleges, Universities Shielded From COVID-19 Lawsuits – CBS Miami

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami / NSF) – As a victory for colleges and universities that closed their campuses during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Tuesday protecting schools from lawsuits to get refunds for To charge students because of the closings.

Universities closed in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19, forcing students to study online.

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During this year’s legislature, which ended April 30th, Florida lawmakers set about protecting colleges and universities from class action lawsuits to get money back for students after the move to virtual-only classes. The measure signed by DeSantis on Tuesday evening (HB 1261) will take effect on Thursday.

“Providing in-person or on-campus education and related services is considered impossible for educational institutions during a period in which those institutions have reasonably taken necessary measures,” to protect people on campus, an introductory part of the bill said.

Florida State University, hit by a lawsuit last month, was one of the schools that expected the bill to be signed by DeSantis.

“We were lucky enough to survive for a while without a class action lawsuit about tuition and fees, unlike the University of Florida, the University of North Florida,” said Carolyn Egan, Florida State General Counsel, during a meeting of the University Trustees Council on Nov. June “We wondered if we would have a case, we waited, we watched our colleagues go through it. The state higher education system was sued. “

Egan briefed the trustees of the lawsuit alleging Harrison Broer, who was a law student in Florida in spring 2020, breach of contract and unjust enrichment from the university.

“We filed a motion to dismiss these two charges with bias. That means if we prevailed, the whole case would go away, ”said Egan. “We have scheduled the hearing for August because we hope the governor will sign the COVID immunity law.”

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The lawsuit alleged that the State of Florida did not offer “fair and / or reasonable reimbursements of fees for tuition and other services paid to cover the cost of certain on-campus services that are no longer available to students . To the extent that reimbursements were offered, the reimbursements were not proportionate to the financial losses suffered by the students and their families. “

The Higher Education Act, signed late Tuesday by DeSantis, also covered a host of other issues, such as the creation of several new tuition and fee waivers aimed at attracting overseas and “nontraditional” students and providing incentives for students to study engineering and engineering.

The measure will create the so-called “Free Seat Program” at universities to offer free online courses to “non-traditional students” who have left college for five years and members of the military. This program is limited to 1,000 recipients each year.

Another tuition waiver is aimed at attracting high-performing students from other states to Florida universities. The so-called “grandparent tuition waiver” is limited to 350 recipients per year and offers foreign students whose grandparents live in Florida cheaper state tuition fees if those students score 89th percentile or higher on the ACT or SAT exams.

A “buy-one-get-one-free” exemption for students of higher courses in areas such as natural sciences, mathematics and engineering is also included in the measure.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, told the University System Board of Governors last week that the idea was to align universities with the “future of the economic market” in Florida – and he came up with that in an unconventional way Idea.

“I know what you’re thinking, did you think about that when you were in Publix? The answer is yes, I have, ”Sprowls told the board. “Everyone likes a buy-one-get-one.”

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The Board of Governors will also be required under the bill to publish an online dashboard with information on post-graduate salaries and student loan debt for various fields of study.

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