Skip to comments.UC ordered to pay $33 million to students for unfair fees
Posted on 03/06/2006 7:49:58 PM PST by SmithL
A San Francisco judge has ordered the University of California to pay $33.8 million to tens of thousands of students whose fees were unfairly raised.
In an opinion released Monday, Superior Court Judge James Warren called the university's breach of contract "clear and unambiguous." The case involved at least 9,500 graduate students who claimed UC officials broke their promise to freeze fees at the amount students paid when they first enrolled.
Plaintiffs also included as many as 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students who enrolled at UC Berkeley and UCLA in the spring and summer terms in 2003 whose fees were subsequently raised.
"The terms of this promise were not vague or indefinite," Warren wrote in the 27-page opinion. "A reasonable person would be entitled to rely on the university's representation that the professional-degree fee would remain the same throughout his or her enrollment."
UC officials said they would appeal the ruling and that they never promised students their fees would remain the same.
"The university believes that there was no contract," UC spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said. "Students were told that fees could change at any time."
The lead plaintiff in the suit, 27-year-old Mo Kashmiri, said he hopes the ruling teaches the university a lesson about fee policy.
"It shows that even the law school needs to follow the law," said Kashmiri, who graduated from UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school in 2004. "It's such a black-and-white case. They promised not to raise fees and then they raised fees."
The suit also accused the university of notifying students of the fee increase too late in the year.
The bulk of the disputed fee increases applied to students at UC professional schools, including law, dentistry, pharmacy and business. Professional-school fees at the UCLA business school, for example, increased more than $10,000 from 2002 to 2005, while fees at Boalt Hall rose more than $9,200.
Regardless of the final outcome of the lawsuit, it probably taught UC officials a lesson in timing and promises, said Patrick Murphy, a professor and higher-education finance expert at the University of San Francisco.
"I think this is going to go down as a 'Good God, let's not do this again' thing," Murphy said.
It was not immediately clear how much each student would receive if Warren's ruling stands. The ruling awarded about $28.1 million in damages and $5.7 million in interest.
Some students could receive five-figure reimbursements, said Jonathan Weissglass, a San Francisco attorney who represented the plaintiffs.
UC regents have wrangled with students -- and themselves -- over fee increases recently. Students in tears have pleaded at Board of Regents meetings for officials not to raise fees, while campus chancellors and deans have said the professional schools in particular need students to pay more in order to compete with top private schools.
With an injunction preventing the university from collecting further fee increases from students involved in the lawsuit, regents in July instituted an additional $1,050 fee on other professional-school students in order to recoup about $20 million in lost revenue. It was not clear Monday what implications Warren's ruling would have on that fee.
Several regents have expressed regret over the ill-timed fee increases of the past.
"I think there are better ways to deal with situations," Regent Fred Ruiz said Monday. "When you look back, there are always better ways we could have handled things."
Kashmiri said he is owed about $6,000, but he does not expect to receive it for at least two or three years. He said he owes tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.
"I could really use that money right now," Kashmiri said.
They lied, you paid....
I guess it depends on how you define "lied"....
What about out-of-state students paying more than illegal aliens. They have a lawsuit too. Anyone know how that one is going?
One fee rate, barring extraordinary circumstances, should apply to an applicant as long as that applicant is making specified progress toward matriculation.
At a maximum, that's a 5 year risk to the institution which is manageable.
Education budgets are really stretched for both the institution and the student. Making financial forecasting more accurate is good for both. Neither can well tolerate the constant, unpredictable tax increases and fluctuating budgets, that the Wilsonegger gang has inflicted on the both.
I wonder if the fee increase breakdown is similar in construction to the reviled cookie sales programs.
This crap happens all the time in state schools. Universities never stand by their tuition and fee "freezes." Just marketing gimicks. In other cases (such as mine), one fee is frozen while a separate fees are created from scratch. These institutions shouldn't be able to get away with anything that a business can't.
With all thats come out lately about the UC system and its problems you have to ask yourself: who is running the store?
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