In Lawsuits, UC and Cal State Students Demand Refunds Of Fees For On-Campus Services
Students in the University of California and California State University systems have filed federal class-action lawsuits demanding refunds of millions of dollars in fees for on-campus services that are not available during the coronavirus shutdowns.
"While both CSU and UC were initially responsible in closing their campuses, it is improper for them to attempt to retain what amounts to many millions of dollars in aggregate in campus fees they collected from their students, even though they terminated the services that these fees covered," Adam Levitt said in a written statement. He's a Chicago-based lawyer who filed the suits Monday in U.S. District Courts in Los Angeles and Oakland.
The combined enrollment in the two systems is 700,000 students. According to Levitt, CSU students paid fees ranging from $847 to $4,201 in the 2019-20 academic year, while UC students paid a base student services fee of $1,128, along with campus-specific fees typically totaling an additional $2,000 to $4,000.
The University of California declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the Cal State Chancellor's office, said "the complaint misstates the facts."
"Campuses continue to operate, and many personal services are now provided remotely, such as counseling, advising, faculty office hours, disability student services, and even telehealth medical care," he said. "CSU will vigorously defend against this suit."
CSU's interim refund policy says students may request refunds for "materials, services, and facilities for which students have paid but that the CSU is unable to provide," but refunds are not warranted if the services continue to be provided online. The policy makes no changes to refund policies regarding tuition.
The lawsuit against CSU alleges campuses engaged in "illegal, unfair, or deceptive conduct" as administrators forced or encouraged students to move off campus while keeping unused fees for services that are no longer being provided.
"I'm glad someone is suing to get their attention," Valarie Segovia, a senior at Cal State Fullerton, said by text message. Segovia and other student leaders want the fee refunds to happen automatically instead of by request.
"Students have been demanding refunds for students, but we are only refunded our parking pass," she said.
Akayla Miller, a Sonoma State University student who is lead plaintiff in the suit against CSU, says in the lawsuit that she paid the full cost of fees for the Spring 2020 semester but she has not been on campus since mid-March.
"Despite the shutdown of campus and suspension of on-campus activities, Plaintiff has not been offered or provided any refund of any fees that she paid for the semester," the suit said.
The suit against the University of California Board of Regents makes the same demands on behalf of lead plaintiff Claire Brandmeyer, a student at UC Davis.