Lawsuit: California universities owe students coronavirus-related refunds

LONG BEACH, CA - MARCH 18: Students load up their vehicles and moves out of the dorms at CSULB in Long Beach on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Originally students were informed of a temporary campus closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now students h

The California State University and the University of California systems were sued Monday by students demanding refunds of some campus fees since the virus pandemic closed schools and forced learning online.

The class-action lawsuits, filed in federal courts in Los Angeles and Oakland, say that the systems that serve more than 700,000 students have refused to refund unused portions of fees for campus-related services that spring-semester students aren’t using, such as health facilities, student association dues and student centers.

The campuses have been closed since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak and athletic events have been cancelled.

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“The effect of CSU’s COVID-19-related protocols and messaging is that all students have effectively been forced to leave campus, unless they truly had no other safe place to go,” the Los Angeles suit said. “For students who do remain on campus, services are now extremely limited. For students who do not live on campus, there is no reason to come to campus, since all activities have been cancelled.”

Messages seeking comment from both systems weren’t immediately returned Monday night.

The fees ranged from around $850 to more than $4,000 for CSU students for the 2019-2020 academic year while the UC basic student services fee was around $1,100, while fees related to specific campuses doubled that or more, according to the lawsuits.

“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,” said Adam Levitt, one of the lawyers filing the suits. “A college education is already a monumental expense for students and their families, and to essentially offer them no relief on these material expenditures, particularly during a time when millions of Americans are struggling financially, is not only tone-deaf but unfair and unlawful.”

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Similar lawsuits were previously filed against universities in Arizona and against Liberty University, a nonprofit evangelical Christian college in Virginia.