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Judge dismisses tuition refund claims brought by students

March 11, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed most of the claims in lawsuits brought by students at several Rhode Island universities alleging they were entitled to tuition reimbursement when the schools switched to remote learning last spring.

U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. wrote in the decision dated March 4 that there was “no plausible reading” in student handbooks or any other university materials that offered a contractual promise for in-person education.

The universities had the right to alter the way they delivered their academic offerings, he wrote.

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The decision was in response to lawsuits brought by students at Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University, and Roger Williams University.

“Brown, and other defendants were responding to the remarkable circumstances of this pandemic — which has upended countless aspects of our society’s usual and customary practices,” McConnell said in the decision.

Brown said in a statement Wednesday that it “continued to provide students with a world-class education and students continued to learn remotely as they earned academic credit toward completion of their degrees.”

The judge did allow some students’ claims to a partial refund of certain fees to continue.

“We are proceeding to pursue the claims the judge left alive,” Steve Berman, an attorney for Brown students, said in a statement.

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VACCINATION MILESTONE

Rhode Island has fully vaccinated more than 100,000 people, or nearly 10% of the state’s population, the state Department of Health said Thursday.

About 147,000 other people have received a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The department also reported more than 500 new confirmed cases of the disease and four more virus-related fatalities.

Of the new cases, about 430 were first-time positive tests from Wednedsay and about 100 were first-time positive tests from previous days.

There have now been more than 130,000 known cases and 2,563 virus-related deaths in the state.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday dropped slightly from the previous day to 141.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Rhode Island has risen over the past two weeks from about 325 on Feb. 23 to 330 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins.

The COVID Tracking Project has discontinued its data collection services, so the AP is switching to federal data compiled through the COVID-19 electronic laboratory reporting program.