Students Sue For Double Billing of Tuition

tuitionby Amani Rashid –

Imagine being billed for a semester of college not once, but twice; and wait it gets better; imagine being billed that second time without any warning. For students all across California State University (CSU) campuses this was very much a reality.

Originally, the CSU Trustees voted to raise the fall tuition of 2009 by 10 percent demanding all students, including those who already paid, to pay by July 9. However, on July 21 fall tuition was raised another 20 percent.

State university students have filed lawsuits against the CSU Board of Trustees claiming they breached contract when they charged students twice for tuition without warning leaving the students without time to secure the necessary, additional funds.

The plaintiffs, Travis Donselman, a graduate student from CSU San Bernardino, and Samantha Adame, an undergraduate student from San Francisco State University, originally filed a preliminary injunction that would have prohibited nine schools from collecting the additional fees. A ruling was made against the motion on August 31st.

But on January 5th a superior court judge ruled that students, attending 19 of the 23 CSU campuses, who were double billed, could join the lawsuit. The ruling excludes students who were billed after they were notified and students whose tuition is covered by state grants.

It seems as if over night the lawsuit’s credibility sky-rocketed and it has people wondering why. It may have something to do with the fact that this case mirrors that of Kashmiri v. Regents; a case in which the court ruled in favor of the students; a case which has the plaintiffs lawyers giddy with excitement.

Mohammad Kashmiri, a law student at UC Berkeley, filed a lawsuit alleging that the UC system violated contractual agreement when they raised tuition costs without prior notice. Kashmiri prevailed in this case giving the students of CSUs involved in the lawsuit hope for a fruitful outcome.

Donselman was quoted saying it was this lawsuit that “inspired” him to file his own.

When Davis students were asked what they thought of the situation, sympathy for fellow students resonated strongly throughout campus.   

“I can barely handle fee hikes when I’m notified quarters in advance I don’t know what I’d do if I were them,” were the words of Alexa Martinez, a second year Civil Engineer major, as she shook her head in disbelief.

Many students expressed similar sentiments when posed the question: “Do you think it’s fair of the CSU Trustees to implement fee hikes in such a manner?” Tim Burn, a fourth year Comparative Literature Major, responded: “You’re joking right? It’s not only unfair, it’s unethical not to mention mean!”
“The trustees screwed up, big time, they need to sack up admit they made a mistake and refund all the students who could barely pay tuition the first time around; it’s not that hard; why is there even debate,” explained Cathy Douval, a third year Communications major.

If only the solution were that simple! One can see why CSU trustees are willing to fight this tooth and nail if one is aware the lawsuit will cost the CSUs $40 million they cannot afford to lose seeing as how CSU is facing a “generous” cut of at least $500 million from state funding.   

If forced to refund the $40 million, trustees may be forced to lay off instructors and turn away students. This nightmare will be an addition to the layoffs and tuition augmentations that will already be put into effect to counteract the blows the CSUs will face from the state budget.

Now the question is: “All things considered are the actions of the trustees justified?”

“Hell No,” was Kevin Richard’s passionate answer. “Does the fact that I’m facing eviction justify stealing; no it doesn’t and that is exactly what the trustees did; they stole!”

Most students adapted a dramatic take on the issue. “Since when was a poor economy an excuse to go against the laws that built the foundations of this nation; the economy sucks so you rip off your students what kind of skew logic is that.” Amy Brown, a second year Chemistry major, was filled with disgust and disbelief as she practically screamed her response.

“I was not in that room with the trustees when that decision was made but I honestly don’t believe they possessed malicious intent; however, emotions aside, think of it from a business standpoint; it shouldn’t have been done.”

A rational response such as this provided by James Lee, a first year Statistics major, was rare amidst the sea of rage targeted at the CSU trustees.

Is it surprising that this tuition debacle has arisen? Not really, seeing as how historically colleges in California have done this before, and let’s face it with the economy in shambles you would have to be naïve to think CSUs aren’t getting a little desperate to make ends meet.

Is it fair that certain students have been placed in a situation such as this one? Call me biased, but I’m going to have to say no. I can’t imagine how much it would devastate me to finally breathe that sigh of relief after barely making the tuition payment on time only to get re-billed weeks later out of the blue.

On Tuesday, CSU trustees will discuss the matter in closed session in Long Beach, California.

Amani Rashid is a second year UC Davis student who will be writing about UC Davis and student related issues for the Vanguard.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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3 Comments

  1. biddlin

    University students are customers and as such should shop carefully. The University of California is just one provider. Students should approach the problem from a consumerist view. Does the school meet your academic/career needs ? Can I acquire the units needed for graduation in a timely fashion? Is the tuition competitive with other schools? Considering the current over-scheduling and over-charging at UC, combined with the current employment outlook, a boycott of UC for a term could have a sobering effect on the trustees.

  2. E Roberts Musser

    biddlin: “University students are customers and as such should shop carefully. The University of California is just one provider. Students should approach the problem from a consumerist view. Does the school meet your academic/career needs ? Can I acquire the units needed for graduation in a timely fashion? Is the tuition competitive with other schools? Considering the current over-scheduling and over-charging at UC, combined with the current employment outlook, a boycott of UC for a term could have a sobering effect on the trustees.”

    1) I believe this was the CSU system, not the UC system, that raised tuition w/o notifying students properly.
    2) Students don’t always have the luxury of getting into the school of their choice, depending on their grades and particular financial situation.

    Sounds like CSU was in the wrong here in light of the Kashmiri vs Regents case, but only time will tell…

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