The California Superior Court has granted a motion by four California State University students to file a lawsuit against the CSU Board of Trustees classified as a class-action case.
Plaintiffs Honora Keller, et al. allege the CSU illegally charged student fees in 2009.
In May and July of 2009, the board raised fees for resident students and tuition for nonresident students.
According to an email sent to students identified as possible class action parties on Oct. 25, the lawsuit alleges students were required to pay for the increases, after already paying previously agreed-upon fees in the same semester.
The email included a notice filed with the Superior Court of California in San Francisco County. It was sent to approximately 175,000 students for whom the plaintiffs seek compensation.
The summary of the case presents both sides’ arguments.
The plaintiffs said the “CSU breached its contracts with students about the price required for the fall 2009 term and violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”
CSU denies all allegations. It said it never entered into enforceable contracts with students not to increase fees or tuition.
“The university contends that the students were cautioned that fees and tuition were subject to change … that at least some students indicated that they preferred and consented to the increase in fees and tuition,” according to the case notice sent to students.
If the plaintiffs win the case, the CSU will be forced to repay the fee and tuition increases plus interest, Danielle Leonard of Altshuler Berzon LLP, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said. She said she was interested in settling with CSU outside of court.
Leonard represented student plaintiffs in a similar class-action lawsuit in 2003. Kashmiri, et al. v. the Regents of the University of California also involved students who were charged additional fees. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, requiring the UC to refund the money.
Leonard said while universities always reserve the right to establish fees for a term, they are not able to change them once they have been set and paid for.
“We’re not saying they can’t set the amount of fees that students pay,” Leonard said. “This is about the manner in which they did it.”
Students may opt out of the class-action lawsuit by emailing CSUinfo@altber.com.
– Senior Staff Writer Hutton Marshall contributed to this report.