Claiming that last-minute student fee hikes represent a breach of contract, a group of University of California students are asking for millions of dollars in tuition refunds in a class action lawsuit filed Thursday.
The suit comes a week after the UC Board of Regents raised student fees 25 percent, effective this summer. Seven months prior to that the Regents, in the thick of the state budget crisis, approved a mid-year, 11.2 percent fee hike effective in the spring 2003 semester.
Students from four UC campuses, including UC Berkeley, say the university notified them of fee hikes for the spring and summer sessions after they had already registered for classes and received bills in the mail.
“There is a certain requirement of fair dealing here,” said Jonathan Weissglass, one of the students’ attorneys. “They raised [fees] after folks had already committed and didn’t have time to change their plans.”
A refund of the spring 2003 tuition hike would cost the university $28.5 million, according to UC documents. The price tag for a summer 2003 refund was unclear at press time.
UC spokesman Hanan Eisenman said the university will fight the lawsuit.
“The budget crisis has forced UC to make very difficult choices about student fees in a very short period of time,” he said. “The University of California tried to notify students, and we believe successfully, about the likelihood of fee increases.”
The lawsuit also claims that the university promised, in an on-line message, that law students, medical students and others enrolled in professional programs would not face fee hikes during their time at the university.
The UC Board of Regents’ July 17 decision to hike professional school fees for the 2003-2004 academic year is a breach of contract, the lawsuit contends, and the university should not be allowed to proceed with the jump.
Berkeley students were notified of fee increases five days before summer school started.
“My bill for this fall will be $2,500 higher than last fall, most of which is for a fee the university had promised not to raise,” said Mo Kashmiri, a third-year law student at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, who joined the suit. “The Regents need to live up to their promises.”
Ten students from UC Berkeley, UCSF, UC Davis and UCLA are involved in this suit.