A college student will take her lawsuit against the Council on International Education Exchange to a federal appeals court.

Annie Zhao, a Harvard College student from Texas, sued the Portland-based nonprofit earlier this year over its decision not to refund the costs of study abroad programs cut short by COVID-19. She sought class-action status in the U.S. District Court of Maine to represent other students and interns who were similarly sent home and not refunded any of their costs.

CIEE then filed a motion to dismiss the case, which District Judge Lance Walker granted last month. This week, Zhao filed a notice of appeal. That means the case will now go to a panel of judges at the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

The case reflects other legal challenges spurred by the global pandemic. The Associated Press reported in May that students at more than 25 American universities have sued their schools, demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees.

CIEE suspended all of its spring programs in March because of the pandemic, and nearly all students returned home. One of them was Zhao, who was studying at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The nonprofit’s website says only those who could not finish their classes virtually would be considered for refunds.

“CIEE undeniably made the right decision to cancel its study abroad programs in light of travel restrictions and safety concerns posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it erred by placing 100 percent of the financial burden of that cancellation on financially strapped young adults, many of whom went into debt to pay for overseas educational programs, internships, housing, activities, and services that CIEE did not deliver,” the complaint states.

Walker ultimately disagreed with her argument. He found that the contract between CIEE and its students spelled out what would happen in the event of cancellations and even listed an epidemic as one of the reasons for canceling the overseas portion of the program.

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