California Western students sue school over switch to online

Tuition is going up at California Western School of Law and students are not happy about it. John Mears, Maria Cholico and Cristal Tejeda are among a group of students who filed two class-action lawsuits in July regarding the tuition and fees charged by the San Diego law school.

The lawsuits are seeking tuition refunds related to classes being taught online during the global pandemic. It claims that none of the school's facilities are available to students and that faculty instruction has been subpar during the pandemic.

“Despite defendants net worth of $67 million and a receipt of over $196,000 in federal aid, California Western has failed to properly reimburse Plaintiffs and the Class for their benefit,” the lawsuit reads. “Instead the school has chosen to not offer refunds at all, partial or whole.”

Emily Casillas is another student who feels she is not getting what she is paying for. 

“We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on student loans to go to school, so we want to know what we are paying for," Casillas said in an interview with NBC 7 in San Diego. "We pay for access to facilities and resources on campus and we are not allowed in any of these buildings."

California Western School of Law President and Dean Niels Schaumann recently addressed the two class action lawsuits filed against the law school. He said the move to an online curriculum brought new costs to the school and no savings. He also said the tuition increase for the upcoming fall semester is normal and happening all over the state of California. 

“California Western did post a tuition increase for fall 2020 but the percent increase this year is the same as it has been for the last few years and is less than many other California schools,” Schaumann said. “Even after the increase, Cal Western's tuition remains below the median for California ABA-approved law schools.”

Dean Schaumann said as soon as the state and county mandated closures are lifted the law school will also reopen to students. Until then the school’s top priority is the health and safety of its students and faculty. 

“We are doing everything we can to provide the best possible services to our students under the severe restrictions in place due to the pandemic. Right now, we are planning to offer some in-person classes to our continuing students in the fall,” said Schaumann. “However, should the closure order not be lifted before the start of fall classes, we are prepared to comply and move fully online, with the hope of returning to in-person classes in the spring.”

Casillas disagrees with the law school. She said her education is diminishing and she doesn’t think pre-recorded lectures by law professors are effective. 

“It’s wild to think that a year from now, I am supposed to be taking the bar exam and I am teaching myself the law,” Casillas said. 

“As a result of this transition to virtual learning online, the quality of education that Plaintiffs and Class members have received has suffered,” the lawsuit reads. “Numerous studies have shown that students taking online classes fare worse than their peers who are able to take in-person classes.”

School Referenced in News: