A University of Nevada, Reno student filed a class action lawsuit last week, alleging Nevada’s public colleges and universities deprived students of the benefits of in-person instruction and access to campus facilities during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Kelsie Ballas filed the complaint against the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents on June 17 in Washoe County District Court. She’s seeking a jury trial.
Reno attorney Matthew Sharp, who represents Ballas, wasn’t immediately available to comment Tuesday. NSHE said in a Monday night statement it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered K-12 schools to close in mid-March because of the pandemic. Around the same time, universities announced they would transition to remote classes for the rest of the school year.
NSHE, which oversees the state’s public colleges and universities and their roughly 107,000 students, plans to resume some in-person classes in the fall and on a limited basis for the second half of the summer. But it plans to continue offering some remote instruction this fall, including for large lecture classes.
Ballas was enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student during spring semester, studying wildlife ecology and conservation at UNR, according to court documents. She hasn’t visited campus since at least March 18 or had access to any on-campus facilities or services. She’s listed in a UNR online directory of spring semester graduates.
Ballas alleges she and her classmates were deprived of “recognizing the benefits of in-person instruction, access to campus facilities, student activities, and other benefits and services they had been promised in exchange for which they had already paid tuition and fees,” according to the complaint.
NSHE refused to provide reimbursement for tuition and fees or has provided “inadequate and/or arbitrary reimbursement” that doesn’t fully compensate for students’ losses, according to court documents.
The complaint states one question that needs to be answered is whether there’s a difference in value between online distance learning and in-person instruction.
NSHE was “woefully ill-prepared to transition to online instruction and was unable to provide its students with the same level of education and experiences as such students bargained for and would have received on campus, making it unfair and unlawful for Defendant to retain the full amount of tuition such students had already paid,” according to the complaint.
Online court records don’t show any hearings scheduled as of Tuesday.