11

My university has recently moved to a new location. Last semester, we were informed the new campus would be ready come start of this spring semester. The semester has just began, and we have been informed only half of the campus will be open. Upon visiting the campus, it is a mess. The entire campus is a construction site, windows are shattered, and elevators are breaking mid-use. The worst part of this situation is that today I was informed there will be a 2-week delay minimum for labs to start and that it will potentially be longer. There was no request for the students to agree to this, no tuition reimbursement or anything of this kind. I am wondering if this can be considered fraud? The course is officially listed to last the entire semester, and the full tuition is applied as such. Do I have any recourse? For context, this is a U.S. university, and the course I am mentioning is solely a lab course. This is also a mandated course this semester.

8
  • 9
    "There was no request for the students to agree to this," well of course there wasn't, what would they have done if the students didn't "agree"? Jan 30, 2023 at 16:30
  • 4
    In the US universities I am familiar with, there is typically a "drop" deadline before which courses can be dropped/added without financial penalty. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems like it would be exceptionally difficult to accuse someone of fraud if you are able to see the condition of things and drop a course but decide not to. What are the terms for dropping this lab course?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 30, 2023 at 17:36
  • 4
    Start with this question: What does a good outcome for you look like? Do you just want your money back? What other solution, short of "They promised me the course, they need to run it!" do you seek? Jan 30, 2023 at 19:07
  • 4
    @BryanKrause the Q says it's a mandated course, as labs often are. So there shoudln't be an option to drop it.
    – Chris H
    Jan 31, 2023 at 9:50
  • 1
    @ChrisH The student usually has the option to drop that course at that time. They just have to take a similar course at some time in order to graduate in that major, but not necessarily this semester. A complicating factor is that the course may be a prerequisite for some other required course, etc. Overall, dropping the course should be possible, but could have knock-on effects, which may include delaying when they graduate.
    – Makyen
    Jan 31, 2023 at 22:58

2 Answers 2

16

You are asking a legal question for which we are not qualified to give a binding answer. However, I doubt that it would be considered fraud in the US if they have made a "good faith" effort to provide needed services. Fraud normally implies intent to defraud, which is unlikely here. Building programs are difficult to do on a strict schedule and often overrun due to things like weather and pandemics and supply chain issues.

A lawyer might also ask whether you, yourself, did due diligence before you signed up for a course under these conditions.

Instead of thinking of it as a legal question, try to find out what they are willing to do to keep you on track for your degree. That is the important thing. Go talk to the department head about your needs and how they can be met.

2
  • 5
    Thank you for your response. I should clarify the issue is not being granted the degree. Even if the labs are substantially delayed, the course will count for the degree. The issue I am having is that I want to actually learn, and I am not being provided what I am paying a large sum of money for. I am not sure if that changes anything. Jan 30, 2023 at 16:39
  • 9
    As @Buffy says, this is probably a question that belongs on Law.SE and/or requires you to consult a lawyer. As he also says, this doesn't sound like it meets the legal definition for the crime of fraud - intentional mis-representation for financial gain. Instead, your case would likely fall under civil law, as a dispute over contracts: is the university providing a service that matches what you agreed to pay them for? The answer to this question is going to depend on the precise wording of your agreement with the university, hence the need for properly-qualified advice.
    – avid
    Jan 30, 2023 at 17:53
8

There are a few issues you should consider before going all the way to an allegation of fraud. Firstly, most universities allow you to drop your courses without incurring the fees for the course; this is usually allowed for a limited period even after you have started the course. Such an action would allow you to cancel one or all of your courses now that you know that the quality of service is below what you were expecting. Secondly, even if your university does not have a mechanism for dropping courses without financial penalty, at worst this would constitute a breach of contract; unless there is some compelling evidence of an intention to defraud you, a mere failure to provide a service at an expected level of quality is unlikely to amount to fraud.

In regard to the legal situation here, this is a case where a vendor has sold a service but now cannot deliver the service at the expected quality. They most likely have mechanisms available to give you a refund for individual courses if you don't wish to continue with those courses at this time. An argument could be made for a broader breach of contract (and perhaps some non-criminal breaches of commercial law) in relation to your enrolment in the degree program, if they are now unable to supply courses for that program at an appropriate level of quality, to allow you to complete your degree. If you wish to pursue this beyond merely cancelling your present enrolment in courses, you could speak to a lawyer to see what kind of case you would have for breach of contract.

Rather than jumping straight to an extremely serious legal allegation, I recommend you step back and ask yourself what outcome you want to achieve in this situation. You could decide to pause your progression in your degree program and do something else for a year while they finish their construction work. You could decide to cancel your enrolment and transfer to another university at the next intake. You could decide to grin-and-bear the construction noise and other inconveniences and push through your program regardless. Determine the outcome you want and then seek that outcome in the most co-operative way you can.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .